Ensure the construction of SYL Canal – Supreme Court tells Centre and Punjab Government

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The Supreme Court issued on Wednesday for Centre and Punjab government have to ensure the construction of Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal a failure would force it to invoke its contempt powers.

Punjab, which is going to polls next month, has openly defied a five-judge bench SC judgment that held “The Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004” unconstitutional.

The law was enacted to deny due water to riparian states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, and Delhi. Despite the SC verdict, Punjab took a decision to return the land to its farmers, a move Haryana challenged before the top court.

“Purpose of the decree is to be implemented. Whatever, way you want to do, do it. If you fail to implement we will determine it (contempt powers),” a bench led by Justice PC Ghose told the NDA government.

“We will not allow the decree of this court to be flouted in any manner. How it will be done is the headache of you all (all the parties to the dispute). You (Centre) have to take the burden on your shoulders and protect the dignity of the court,” the bench said.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar was present in the court to counter Haryana’s contention to initiate contempt against Punjab and Centre.

The Constitution Bench had passed the judgment on November 10, while answering a Presidential Reference made in July 2004 after Punjab came out with the legislation.

Haryana government counsel, senior advocate Jagdeep Dhankar told the court that Punjab should be hauled up for contempt because it has refused to implement the judgment, giving a go ahead to the SYL canal work.

On behalf of Punjab, senior counsel Ram Jethmalani passed the buck to the NDA government at Centre.

“Dispute between states was like a dispute between two sisters. I want this matter should be resolved by the statesmanship of the Union government. For God’s sake ask your client (Centre) to do some arbitration,” Jethmalani told the Solicitor General.

In Kumar’s opinion the law had not been struck down. He argued the SC had given an “opinion” on a Presidential reference.

But, the court brushed the arguments and asked Punjab to respond to the contempt petition. It refused to fix a date after the state elections and said it would hear the parties again on February 15.

“Let us not make our schedule co-extensive with elections,” the bench observed. Punjab has been restrained from parting away with land acquired for the project.