New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday will pronounce its verdict on the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal land dispute.
A five-judge Constitution bench comprising justices Anil. R. Dave, Pinaki Chandra Ghose, Shiva Kirti Singh, Adarsh Kumar Goel and Amitava Roy has heard a 2004 presidential reference to examine the legality of the Punjab Termination Agreement Act, 2004 that scrapped all water-sharing agreements with neighbouring states.
In March, the top court had ordered Punjab to maintain a status quo on the SYL canal land, just days after the Punjab assembly, pre-empting a possible ruling from the apex court, cleared the Punjab Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Property Rights) Bill, 2016.
In 2004, the apex court had ruled in a 1996 case that construction of the SYL canal should continue without any hindrance. In 1981, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan signed an agreement for the canal construction in a time-bound manner.
SYL canal, which has been a major issue of discord between Punjab and Haryana, was conceived to share the waters of rivers Ravi and Beas after Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966. However, Punjab has been regularly opposing it citing riparian principles.
In 1981, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi negotiated a tripartite agreement between then state governments of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan for recalculating the supplies from the two rivers for their states.
In 1985, after Punjab emerged from nearly two years of President’s Rule and Surjit Singh Barnala became chief minister, work began on building the canal. But the opposition never died, and in subsequent years, even as some 90% of the work was completed, it sparked periodic violence. In 1990, a chief engineer and his assistant were killed by militants apparently to protest the construction of the canal; 30 labourers working at a project site near Chandigarh were killed. The escalating turmoil forced Punjab to stop the work.
The ruling will gather significance with assembly elections slated early next year in Punjab and political parties wooing farmers in the state.
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