Negotiate SYL issue at political level, SC tells CMs of Punjab and Haryana

Agencies. Updated: 7/28/2020 7:17:31 PM National

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana to attempt a negotiated settlement on the much-prolonged Sutlej-Yamuna link (SYL) issue.
A Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said talks should be held at the highest political level. The Bench wanted the two states to clearly tell it if they could solve it through negotiations or not. Further hearing is likely to be held in the third week of August.
At the root of the problem is the controversial 1981 water-sharing agreement after Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966. For effective allocation of water, SYL Canal was to be constructed and the two states were required to construct their portions within their territories.
While Haryana constructed its portion of SYL canal, after the initial phase, Punjab stopped the work, leading to multiple cases.
In 2004, the Congress government in Punjab came out with the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act to terminate the 1981 agreement and all other pacts relating to sharing waters of the Ravi and Beas rivers.
In 2002, the top court had decreed Haryana's suit and ordered Punjab to honour its commitments on water sharing.
Punjab filed an original suit that was rejected in 2004 by the Supreme Court which asked the Centre to take over the remaining infrastructure work of the SYL canal project.
In November 2016, the top court had declared the law passed by the Punjab Assembly in 2004 terminating the SYL canal water-sharing agreement with neighbouring states unconstitutional. It had answered in the negative all four questions referred to it in a Presidential Reference.
But in early 2017, Punjab returned land—on which canal was to be constructed—to the landowners.
The Supreme Court has said repeatedly that it didn’t intend to revisit the facts and issues already adjudicated upon. The decree that has been passed has to be executed and it should not be treated like a paper decree, it had said.
Haryana has maintained that it cannot be made to wait long for construction of the canal. Any further delay in execution of the top court’s decree passed in 2002 would lead to people losing faith in the judicial system, it has said.
On the other hand, Punjab says the decree was not executable and the state required time to argue its case. It has told the Supreme Court that the canal land returned to the landowners could not be recovered.
Punjab has contended that there were difficulties in implementation of the court’s decree. The decree was premised on the fact that there was enough water in the river. But now there is not much water flow, making it impossible to give effect to it.

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