New Delhi: In a huge setback for Punjab government in Satluj-Yamuna Link canal issue, the Supreme Court, Thursday, declared the legislation passed by Punjab government as null and void.
In 2004, the then Congress government led by Amarinder Singh in Punjab had brought the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act-2004 in Punjab Assembly.
The Punjab Assembly, in 2004, had abrogated the water agreement with Haryana by passing a bill in the Punjab assembly. The bill went to the President for assent and was referred to the Supreme Court after Haryana objected to it.
The SYL, which was to link both rivers in these states, has been a bone of contention for over three decades.
Holding the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004, not in conformity with constitutional provisions, the constitution bench of Justice Anil R Dave, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Amitava Roy answered in the negative all the four questions referred to the apex court in a Presidential reference.
"The Punjab act cannot be said to be in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of India and by virtue of the said act, the state of Punjab cannot nullify the (apex court's 2002 and 2004) judgment and decree and terminate the agreement dated 31st December, 1981. We are of the view that the Punjab act cannot be considered to be legal and valid and the state of Punjab can not absolve itself from its duties/liabilities arising out of the agreement in question," held Justice Dave, speaking for the bench.
The verdict also said that Punjab cannot discharge itself from an obligation arising from the court's January 15, 2002 and January 4, 2004 judgments and decree.
In a separate opinion, Justice Singh said, "...delay in execution of a final judgment or decree, more so when it is of the apex court, should never be countenanced by any authority because it would surely tend to undermine people's faith in the judicial system..." and would mean "avoidable harm to all the institutions and functionaries under the Constitution, may be even to the Constitution itself".
The court said that the existing agreement has "thus a legal sanction" and once a court has passed a binding decree, any party to the litigation cannot unilaterally act in a manner to nullify the decree's effect.
Holding that the Punjab law clearly violated the 1981 agreement, the court said the state had "exceeded its legislative power in proceeding to nullify the decree of this Court and therefore, the Punjab Act cannot be said to be a validly enacted legislation .."
The court said that the agreement, about sharing Ravi and Beas rivers water, could not have been unilaterally terminated by any of the parties through its legislative power and if done, "such unilateral action of a particular state has to be declared contrary to the Constitution of India as well as the provisions of the Inter State Water Disputes Act, 1956".
It also rejected Punjab's contention that July 22, 2004 Presidential reference was not maintainable and should be returned unanswered, ruling this was "not a case where this court would like to refuse to give its opinion to the President under the provisions of Article 143 of the Constitution ... as there is no good reason for the same".
Meanwhile, protesting against the SC order, all Punjab Congress MLAs submitted their resignations to PCC chief Amarinder Singh.
Singh too resigned as MP, protesting against the Sutlej Yamuna link canal row verdict.
Amarinder also demanded imposition of President's rule in the state and suggested holding the Assembly elections in December, voicing apprehension that a "mischievous" Badal government may try to "foment trouble" following the court order.
(With IANS inputs)