In a huge blow to the Punjab government, the Supreme Court on Thursday set aside the government’s 2004 order quashing water sharing agreement with neighbouring states.
Terming it unconstitutional, a five-judge bench headed by justice A R Dave ruled that the legislations passed by the Punjab government on Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal that terminated the water sharing agreement with neighbouring states stands null and void as a bilateral agreement cannot be tampered with by one party alone.
Now the Centre will take over the canal project and continue the construction work on it.
Meanwhile, all 46 Congress MLAs in Punjab have sent their resignations to party president Captain Amarinder Singh. Singh has also quit as an MP from the Lok Sabha. He is the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the state which will vote early next year.
“Punjab Congress MLAs have sent resignations to Captain Amarinder Singh. He is expected to meet speaker on Friday and submit the resignations in person,” said Bharat Bhushan, deputy leader of Congress’s legislative party.
Haryana, on the other hand, welcomed the Supreme Court order. “The decision came late, but it is finally in the favour of Haryana. I welcome it,” Haryana CM ML Khattar said.
The court’s verdict comes in a 2004 presidential reference to examine the legality of the Punjab Termination Agreement Act, 2004 that scrapped all water-sharing agreements with neighbouring states.
Punjab and Haryana have been locked in a bitter battle over sharing of river waters, especially through the controversial SYL Canal. In 2004, the apex court had ruled in a 1996 case that construction of the SYL canal should continue without any hindrance. In 1981, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan signed an agreement for the canal construction in a time-bound manner.
The Punjab Assembly, in 2004, abrogated the water agreement with Haryana by passing a bill in the Punjab Assembly. The Congress was in power in Punjab at that time. The bill went to the President for assent and was referred to the Supreme Court after Haryana objected to it.