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Punjab, Haryana must themselves decide water dispute, Centre tells SC 

New Delhi, May 12 (IANS) The central government on Thursday told the Supreme Court that Punjab and Haryana must decide the dispute over SYL and water sharing between themselves, as the court reserved its order on the presidential reference seeking its opinion on the validity of Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004.

A constitution bench of Justice Anil R. Dave, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Amitava Roy reserved the order as the central government told the bench that it was a matter between the states and they have resolve it mutually and it has nothing to say.

“We feel that two states must decide the issue themselves,” Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the court.

Referring to September 20, 2004 top court order on the presidential reference, he said that there was no change in the stand from the one taken by the then Congress-led UPA government in 2004.

However, he objected to Punjab trying to put the blame for the mess at the doorsteps of the central government. He said that on one hand Punjab was defending its 2004 law – terminating all water sharing agreements with the neighbouring Haryana, Rajasthan, and Delhi, and the other hand, seeking setting up of a fresh tribunal to decide on the extent of water it had to share with these states.

“You (Punjab) are terminating (the agreements), then you don’t give water and then you are also talking about setting up of a fresh tribunal to go into the entire issue of water sharing… You are talking both ways,” said Ranjit Kumar.

Appearing for Punjab, whom he claimed has been both deprived and denied its legitimate share of water, senior counsel Rupinder Singh Suri took the court through various reports of the commission and other authorities to say that at every stage, Punjab was given 5 million acre feet (MAF) water but in actuality it got much less, while Haryana had never sought 3.4 MAF but was given that amount.

Referring to the July 24, 1985 accord between the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Akali leader Sant Harcharan Singh Longowal, Suri told the court that the accord was used to diffuse the situation in the then turbulent Punjab, favours were taken but there was no reciprocity – Chandigarh was not given to Punjab, the All India Gurdwara Act was not enacted, strength of Punjabi in the army was brought down from the then prevailing 22 percent to 1.7 percent – in proportion to Punjab’s population.

At the outset of the hearing, Haryana urged the bench to extend its March 17 interim order by which it had directed the status quo on the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal and appointed the union home secretary as well as the Punjab chief secretary and police chief as receivers of the canal and assets associated with it.

The court’s interim order came in the wake of Punjab assembly passing a law to return to the farmers 3,928 acres of land along a 122 km stretch of SYL canal in Punjab that was acquired for the construction of the canal for transporting 3.5 MAF of water to Haryana.

As senior counsel Shyam Divan told the bench that Haryana would make an application for the extension of March 17 interim order after the court gives its advisory opinion on the presidential reference, the bench told him that after tendering opinion, the proceedings before it would come to an end and it would not be able to entertain any plea.

It however asked Divan to mention his plea in the written submissions, for which the court gave a week’s time to Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan to file.

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