The Supreme Court has scrapped Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Act, 2004 which unilaterally allows Punjab to stop sharing Ravi, Beas waters with other States. Ruling in this regard was given by a five-judge SC Constitution Bench led by Justice Anil R. Dave. The SC bench gave its opinion on a Presidential Reference made by then President APJ Kalam in 2004 to the apex court under Article 143 (1) of theConstitution questioning the constitutional validity of the Act. SC Order The law unilaterally enacted by Punjab was illegally designed to terminate a 1981 agreement entered into among Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to re-allocate waters of Ravi and Beas. By introducing the 2004 Act, Punjab defied two back-to-back apex court verdicts, pronounced in 2002 and 2004. Punjab exceeded its legislative power in proceeding to nullify the decree of this court and therefore. State Legislative Assembly cannot through legislation do an act in conflict with the judgment of the highest court which has attained finality. What is the issue? The creation of Haryana from Punjab in 1966 threw up the problem of giving Haryana its share of river waters. Since then, Punjab has opposed sharing waters of the Ravi and Beas Rivers with Haryana, citing riparian principles, and arguing that it had no water to spare. After dividing Punjab, Union Government allotted Haryana 3 million acre-feet (MAF) of water of the Ravi and Beas to Haryana in 1976. Later in 1981 agreement was entered into among Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to re-allocate the waters of Ravi and Beas. According to this agreement, available supplies of the Beas and Ravi Rivers were recalculated to be 17.17 MAF. Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana and Rajasthan were allocated 8.6 MAF. 4.22 MAF and 3.5 MAF respectively. Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi got 0.65 MAF and 0.20 MAF. To enable Haryana to use its share of waters of Sutlej and its tributary Beas, Union Government started Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal Project in 1982 to link Sutlej with the Yamuna. The SYL Canal was a product of this 1981 agreement. The total length of the SYL canal is 214-km, of which 122 km was to be in Punjab and 92 km in Haryana. However, the work of canal was completely stopped after local political issues and militant attack on workers in Punjab. In 1996, Haryana approached Supreme Court for the early completion of the canal. In 2002, SC directed Punjab to complete the SYL Canal in a year. Again in June 2004, SC directed Punjab to complete the work in its territory and ordered the formation of a central agency to “take control” of Punjab’s work on the canal. In response to SC order, Punjab Assembly passed The Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, in July 2004 terminating its water-sharing agreements and thus jeopardising the construction of SYL in Punjab.
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