For seven years, presidential reference in Supreme Court

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Chandigarh : A presidential reference to the Supreme Court over a water dispute between Punjab and Haryana is pending for nearly seven years, a Haryana minister has said in a letter to the central government. He believes resolving the issue will help bring more water to his state.

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“This perhaps is the only presidential reference which has not been decided by the Supreme Court for more than seven years,” Haryana Irrigation Minister Ajay Singh Yadav said in an official communication to union Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid.

A copy of the letter is available with IANS.

Yadav, giving details of previous presidential references made by the Government of India to the Supreme Court since 1951, pointed out that almost all the references in the past were decided by the apex court in the same year.

Yadav, in his letter sent last week, has sought the immediate intervention of the union minister to sort out the water sharing issue between Haryana and Punjab.

The Supreme Court is considering the presidential reference number one of 2004 regarding termination of the Water Agreements Act passed by Punjab legislature.

The Haryana minister urged the union minister to take up the issue with the Attorney General of India who in turn should take up the matter with the Supreme Court.

Yadav said the issue was not being listed despite being mentioned several times by the Haryana government in all these years since 2004.

“An application was also filed in this regard in August 2010. It gives us a feeling that the government of India has not followed up the matter with the Supreme Court,” he said.

In his letter, Yadav also strongly takes up the related issue of construction of the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal.

“I sincerely request you to intervene personally and take up the matter with the attorney general of India who in turn should take up the matter with the Supreme Court, so that this presidential reference is decided early and the construction of SYL canal also starts in the right earnest,” wrote Yadav.

“This is very important for Haryana, especially for the southern part of Haryana from where I come. This part of Haryana is deprived of water due to non-completion of SYL canal by Punjab. During my period as irrigation minister, the Haryana government has constructed the Hansi-Butana Canal to partly take care of unequal distribution of water within the state, but this canal also could not work because of the stay orders granted by the Supreme Court,” he said.

“The decision on the presidential reference, I am sure, will also help in resolving the Hansi-Butana Canal issue,” Yadav added.

Among the earlier presidential references cited by Yadav are the Delhi Laws Act decided in May 1951, the Kerela Education Bill in May 1958 and a special reference (on power of states to make laws on natural gas) in 2001.

While the Punjab assembly abrogated all earlier water sharing agreements with Haryana and other neighbouring states in 2004, successive Punjab governments have also refused to allow the flow of water in the controversial SYL canal.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])