‘Punjab not cooperating’: AG tells SC on Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal dispute

The Supreme Court on Tuesday orally observed that sometimes the solution lies little beyond the court and it can proceed to take a hard stand, if parties fail to cooperate, in connection with the resolution of decades-old Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal dispute between Punjab and Haryana.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal submitted before a bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul that the Punjab government is not cooperating in resolving the SYL canal dispute.

Venugopal sought a direction to counsel, representing the Punjab government, to ensure the Chief Minister participates in discussions with his Haryana counterpart. The bench observed that sometimes the solution is little beyond the court, but then either the court proceeds to take a hard stand or the parties cooperate.

The bench noted that a letter dated September 5, addressed by the Secretary of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, was brought on record by the AG.

Justice Kaul said: “I am hoping that the concerned stakeholders realise that abstention from discussion is not the way forward.” As Punjab counsel submitted that the government is also keen to amicably resolve the issue, the bench replied that it should reflect in the action.

The bench, also comprising Justices A.S. Oka and Vikram Nath, said the AG is correct that CMs should meet, and added that water is a natural resource and living beings must learn to share it.

It further added that parties should have a “broader outlook” and they should negotiate a settlement.

The AG, representing the Centre, submitted that in 2017, the top court had said that matter should be amicably settled and the Water Resources Ministry has been trying for a settlement between Punjab and Haryana. He pointed out that letters were sent in 2020 and 2021, to the then Punjab Chief Minister but there was no response.

The bench was informed that a letter was sent in April this year but the CM did not respond. The AG emphasised that Punjab should come to the discussion table.

Venugopal suggested four months to the states, and during this period, at the end of the first month, the two Chief Ministers will meet. After hearing arguments, the top court granted four months to the Centre to submit a progress report and scheduled the matter for hearing on January 19 next year.

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