NEW DELHI, India—In a setback to SAD-BJP government in Punjab, the Supreme Court Thursday held as unconstitutional the state 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 can not terminate the agreement unilaterally and its 2004 Act was hence unconstitutional.
The Bench led by Justice Anil R Dave, reading out the verdict in the court, said that all the questions referred to it by the President have been answered in 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 detailed judgment by the Bench is still to come out. The lawyers appearing for Punjab told The Indian Express: “Yes..The judgment has come against us. We will now see what we can do.”
On his part, senior lawyer Shyam Diwan, who appeared for Haryana, submitted before the Bench that they would be filing fresh applications seeking the court order to be executed. There is also a status quo ordered by the Bench on a recent law passed by the SAD-BJP government to de-notify the land acquired for construction of the canal and give it back to the farmers.
Protesting against the court judgment, Congress MLAs resigned en masse. Party state president Amarinder Singh also resigned as Member of Parliament and called for a press conference at 4.30 pm today. The judgment is a huge setback for the SAD-BJP alliance ahead of the upcoming Punjab Assembly elections. SAD MP In Rajya Sabha, Sabha Naresh Gujral, however, said the party would study all the legal options available instead of resorting to drama like the Congress. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar hailed the court’s decision, saying the judgment has brought a smile on every Haryanvi’s face. In March this year, the Punjab Assembly passed a resolution not to share a single drop of water with Haryana.