Punjab decision on SYL canal land attacks federal structure: Haryana

New Delhi, March 14 (IANS) The row between Punjab and Haryana on the former’s decision to enact a law denotifying the 5,300 acres of land acquired for Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal on Monday reached the Supreme Court with both tossing allegations and counter-allegations at each other.

As Haryana told the constitution bench headed by Justice Anil R. Dave that Punjab’s decision was against the federal structure and would threaten national integrity, Punjab said that its action was strictly in accord with the constitution.

Though the constitution bench also comprising Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Amitava Roy adjourned the hearing till Match 17, the Punjab assembly has in the meantime passed the bill that would pave the way for restoring the lands to the farmers from whom it was acquired for constructing SYL Canal.

The court had adjourned the hearing after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told it that Punjab law would have a bearing on the presidential reference seeking apex court’s advisory opinion on the 2004 Punjab law that was passed during the tenure of then chief minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, terminating all water sharing agreement with the neighbouring Haryana and other states.

Rohatgi told the court that if Punjab goes ahead and enacts the law, then it had to be studied and a view taken on it.

However, he made it clear that central government was not taking sides in the instant dispute following Punjab move to enact the law denotifying the lands acquired for constructing SYL Canal to transport water to Haryana.

At the outset of the hearing, senior counsel Shyam Divan appearing for Haryana drew the court’s attention to the press statement issued by Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal’s office on Sunday about the cabinet decision to bring Punjab Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal (Rehabilitation and Re-vesting of Proprietary Rights) Bill that would pave way for the return of lands to the farmer from whom it was acquired for constructing the canal.

Under the law that was passed by Punjab assembly on Monday, the farmers would get back their lands after returning the amount of compensation that they had got at the time of the acquisition of their lands apparently with no interest liability.

As Divan told the court that Punjab law would be denting the integrity of the country and was an attack on its federal structure, senior counsel Ram Jethmalani defended the Punjab decision saying that it was in accord with the constitution.

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