A Supreme Court judge today recused himself from hearing a batch of pleas, including one filed by Haryana which alleged that Punjab was violating the earlier interim order that the status quo on land meant for Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal be maintained.
“I won’t hear this matter,” said Justice U U Lalit, a member of the bench which also comprised Justice P C Ghose.
The apex court had on November 17 agreed to hear the plea of Haryana after the state’s counsel had mentioned the fresh petition and sought an urgent hearing, saying efforts have been made to breach the earlier order asking Punjab to maintain status quo on the land meant for the canal project.
Recently, the Punjab government had decided to denotify the land acquired for SYL canal project with immediate effect and return it to its owners free of charge.
The state government’s decision assumed significance as a five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice A R Dave had recently held as “unconstitutional” the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004, which “unilaterally” terminated the 1981 water-sharing pact with Haryana.
The apex court had held that Punjab cannot “unilaterally” terminate the agreement or legislate to “nullify” the verdict of the highest court.
Haryana had moved the apex court alleging that Punjab was not honouring the November 10 judgement and the March 17 interim order by which it was directed to maintain status quo on land meant for SYL canal.
The court, in its interim order, had also appointed Union Home Secretary and Punjab’s Chief Secretary and Director General of Police (DGP) as the ‘joint receiver’ of land and other property meant for SYL canal.
The order was passed when Haryana government had said the Punjab Assembly had on March 14 passed a bill against construction of SYL canal providing for transfer of proprietary rights back to the land owners free of cost.
Besides Haryana government, lawyer Satbir Hooda, a resident of Rohtak in Haryana who runs an NGO, had also filed a criminal contempt plea against Prakash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal, Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab respectively, alleging they have made statements that the apex court verdict in the case will not be allowed to be implemented.
The controversial 1981 water-sharing agreement came into being after Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966.