Friday, November 18, 2016

Punjab in turmoil after Supreme Court strikes down SYL state law

Punjab in turmoil after Supreme Court strikes down SYL state law
10th November 2016 06:03 PM
CHANDIGARH: Punjab was thrown into turmoil on Thursday with the Supreme Court striking down a 2004 law passed by the then state government terminating the Sutlej-Yamuna Link [SYL] canal water sharing agreement with neighbouring states.

Both the Congress and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal reacted strontly against the verdict, and vowed not to release “a single drop of water“ to Haryana. Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh resigned his Lok Sabha seat [Amritsar], and the party’s MLAs also put in their papers.

Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal [SAD] called an emergency meeting of his cabinet, which passed a resolution against any sharing of water. A special session of the state Assembly has been called on November 16.

The law held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court was passed by the Punjab government, then headed by Capt. Amarinder Singh, in 2004. Called the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, it sought to nullify a Supreme Court ruling and proceeded to stop construction of the remaining part of the SYL canal, which would affect Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi and Chandigarh.

However, a five-judge Constitutional bench of the apex court ruled that Punjab cannot take any such "unilateral" decision.

The verdict was a response to a presidential reference from the Centre containing five queries. The bench, which included justices A R Dave, P C Ghose, Shiva Kirti Singh, A K Goel and Amitava Roy, unanimously held that its answer to all five questions was negative.

"All the questions have been answered in the negative," a five-judge bench headed by Justice A R Dave said, pronouncing the court’s decision on a presidential reference.

Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal made it clear that the state government is set on another collision course with the apex court. “In a nutshell, all I can say is Punjab ka paani nahin jaayega, nahin jaayega, nahin jaayega . Punjab does not have a single drop of water to spare,” he said after the emergency cabinet meeting.

He said the Cabinet would call on the President and request him not to accept the advice of the Supreme Court.  Deputy chief minister and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said, ``The SYL canal will not be built at any cost. Not a single brick will be laid.’’

Capt. Amarinder Singh described the Supreme Court judgment as a “major blow to the people of Punjab,” and blamed the Akali Dal for failing to present Punjab’s stance in court. Claiming that his government of 2004 tried to protect Punjab’s interests by enacting the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, Amarinder said the Akalis failed to defend the law in the court. On the contrary, a preposterous idea was floated by chief minister Badal to seek royalty from the other states that use the Sutlej water. This was aimed at helping out Haryana, he said. “After helping out Haryana, it seems Badal is now trying to help Himachal Pradesh too, by suggesting that it should demand royalty from Punjab,” said Amarinder.

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar hailed the Supreme Court verdict  and said the Supreme Court has given its decision on a vital issue after 12 years and brought smiles to the faces of every Haryanvi because the state would now get its legitimate share of the surplus Ravi-Beas waters, some 3.5 million acre feet (MAF).

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