Study Material | Test Series | Crash Course
Drishti IAS
call1800-121-6260 / 011-47532596
Drishti The Vision Foundation
(A unit of VDK Eduventures Pvt. Ltd.)
Current Affairs Crash Course Download Player Download Android App
Apex Court Ruling on SYL in Haryana's Favour
Nov 12, 2016

The Supreme Court on November 10 held as unconstitutional the Punjab government’s law to terminate a water-sharing agreement with other states by constructing the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal on its territory. 

  • A five-judge Constitution Bench answered the Presidential Reference, opining that Punjab cannot terminate the agreement unilaterally and its 2004 Act was hence unconstitutional
  • Bench headed by justice Anil. R. Dave ruled that Punjab’s unilateral termination as ‘invalid’.
  • The bench, which also included judges P.C. Ghose, Shiva Kirti Singh, A.K. Goel and Amitava Roy, unanimously held that its response to all the five questions contained in the presidential reference is negative.
  • This effectively meant that Punjab’s attempt to wriggle out of the agreement to share water with Haryana, Delhi and other states has been shot down.
  • The Constitution Bench judgment also restores the 2004 decree passed by the Supreme Court, directing Punjab to construct the SYL canal on its territory.
  • 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.
  • The judgement makes it clear that the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 is ‘unconstitutional’ and rules that Punjab cannot take a ‘unilateral’ decision to terminate the water sharing agreement with Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Chandigarh.
  • The judgement implies that the 2004 Act was not in consonance with a Supreme Court judgement of 2003 which mandated the construction of the SYL canal. By that Act of 2004, Punjab sought to nullify the Supreme Court verdict and proceeded to stop construction of the remaining part of the SYL canal.

Brief History of the Controversy

The creation of Haryana from the old (undivided) Punjab in 1966 threw up the problem of giving Haryana its share of river waters. Punjab was opposed to sharing waters of the Ravi and Beas with Haryana, citing riparian principles, and arguing that it had no water to spare. At an inter-state meeting convened by the central government in 1955, the total calculated flow of the Ravi and Beas—15.85 Million Acre Feet (MAF)—had been divided among Rajasthan (8 MAF), undivided Punjab (7.20 MAF) and Jammu and Kashmir (0.65 MAF).

In March 1976, a decade after the Punjab Reorganisation Act was implemented, and even as Punjab continued to protest, the Centre issued a notification allocating to Haryana 3.5 MAF out of undivided Punjab’s 7.2 MAF.

To enable Haryana to use its share of the waters of the Sutlej and its tributary Beas, a canal linking the Sutlej with the Yamuna, cutting across the state, was planned. On April 8, 1982, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ceremonially dug the ground at Kapoori village in Patiala district for the construction of the 214-km Sutlej-Yamuna Link (or SYL) canal, 122 km of which was to be in Punjab, and 92 km in Haryana. 

A year earlier, Indira Gandhi had negotiated a tripartite agreement between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. Available supplies of the Beas and Ravi were recalculated to be 17.17 MAF, and Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan were allocated 4.22 MAF, 3.5 MAF and 8.6 MAF respectively. Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi got 0.65 MAF and 0.20 MAF. 

On July 24, 1985, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Akali Dal president Harchand Singh Longowal signed the Punjab Accord, agreeing that a tribunal would verify the claims of both Punjab and Haryana on river. 

The Eradi Tribunal headed by Supreme Court Justice V. Balakrishna Eradi in 1987 recommended an increase in the shares of Punjab and Haryana to 5 MAF and 3.83 MAF respectively, while taking into account utilisable supplies of surplus water at base stations.The tribunal’s decision, however, could not be notified. 

In November 1990, Haryana took up the matter with Centre, and asked that the work be taken over by a central agency. After failing to make headway, it moved the Supreme Court in 1996, seeking directions to Punjab to complete the work on the SYL. In 2002, and again in June 2004, the court directed Punjab to complete the work in its territory. But within a month of the Supreme Court order, on July 12, 2004, the Punjab Assembly passed The Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, terminating its water-sharing agreements.

In March 2016, Supreme Court started hearings into a presidential reference to decide on the legality of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004. The presidential reference was made by the Centre days after the Punjab Assembly passed the Act.  On November 10, the Supreme Court passed its verdict regarding the controversy saying that Punjab state government’s law to terminate a water sharing agreement with other states as unconstitutional. 


Helpline Number : 87501 87501
To Subscribe Newsletter and Get Updates.

http://www.drishtiias.com/upsc-current-affairs-article-Apex-Court-Ruling-on-SYL-in-Haryanas-Favour