Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Satluj-Yamuna canal: Punjab isolated, stakeholders side with Haryana in Supreme Court

The SC said attorney general or solicitor general should make the centre's stand clear on a reference pertaining to Punjab Termination of Agreements Act

New Delhi: The Punjab government on Monday appeared to be isolated over the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal water sharing issue, with all other stakeholders coming out in Haryana’s support in the Supreme Court which asked the centre to take a stand in the matter.

In the hearing which saw Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi supporting the stand of Haryana on the Presidential Reference over the SYL canal, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by justice A.R. Dave said the attorney general or solicitor general should make the centre’s stand clear on the reference pertaining to the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004.

“We expect somebody to be present on behalf of the Union of India. You should understand the importance of the Presidential Reference. You doubted the Act (Punjab Law) and you made the Presidential Reference. You attack it or you support it. Union of India has to take some stand.

“What is the stand of the Union of India. It is not a fight between XYZ. It is a Presidential Reference. You have to answer. You have options—attack, defend or be neutral," the bench, also comprising justice P.C. Ghose, Shiva Kirti Singh, A.K. Goel and Amitava Roy observed.

The centre’s counsel Wasim Qadri tried to explain the absence of top law officers and said the Union of India will make submissions after the states. “We are not against any state. Let the states explain their stand and then we will say."

The remarks of the bench came after senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan, appearing for Punjab, accused the centre of playing politics and hide-and-seek on its stand on the reference in view of the upcoming election in the state where its coalition partner Akali Dal is running the government.

“The centre should come out with a certain stand. Because the election is around it is playing hide and seek. The election is around, we all know. The Reference is embroidered by politics," he submitted and added the centre should not treat the Reference as a dispute between Haryana and Punjab.

“Treat it as a matter of legislative competence," he said and elaborated that the question was whether Punjab has the legislative competence to come out with the act to terminate the water sharing agreements with other states.

While Dhawan repeated that the centre should spell out its stand and even if it was neutral, the reasons for it, the bench said it was because the centre has no answers, it made a reference through the President to the apex court.

The bench said it has to hear the matter as a question of law was involved and reiterated that the centre has to come forward with some stand.

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