After Centre tells top court that the Punjab government is “not cooperating” in resolving the decades-old Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal dispute with Haryana, the SC observed that water is a natural resource and living beings must learn to share it
The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court the Punjab government is “not cooperating” in resolving the decades-old Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal dispute with Haryana.
The apex court, which observed that water is a natural resource and living beings must learn to share it, said the parties have to have a “broader outlook” and realise the ramifications and necessity of a negotiated settlement, more so in view of security concerns, apparently referring to the occasional violence over the project. The counsel for Punjab told a bench headed by Justice S K Kaul that the state government is very keen to resolve the issue amicably.
At the outset, Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the apex court had in 2017 said that matter should be amicably settled and the Union of India, through the Water Resources Ministry, has been trying to bring together states of Haryana and Punjab for the purpose of an amicable settlement.
“Unfortunately, Punjab has not been cooperating,” the top law officer said, adding that letters were sent in 2020 and 2021 to the then Punjab chief minister who did not respond at all.
Though official-level talks have been going on between the two states on the SYL issue, the Centre has been insisting on meetings between the two chief ministers.
He said a letter was sent in April this year when the new chief minister took over in Punjab but he has not responded till date.
“It is essential that so far as Punjab is concerned, it has to cooperate. It cannot refrain from coming to the discussion table,” Venugopal told the bench, also comprising Justices A S Oka and Vikram Nath.
He said the bench may direct the Punjab counsel to ensure the chief minister participated in the discussions on the issue with his Haryana counterpart.
Responding to the suggestion, the bench said sometimes the final solution lies a little beyond the courts. “But then either the court proceeds to take a hard stand or the parties cooperate. So, I am hoping that the concerned stake holders realise that abstention from discussion is not the way forward,” Justice Kaul said.
When the counsel representing Punjab said they are very keen to resolve the issue amicably, the bench quipped, “That keenness must reflect (in action).” “Attorney General rightly points out that chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana were and are required to meet and it is agreed before us by the counsel present that such a meeting will be held within this month itself….,” the bench said.
The apex court said it expects the Ministry of Jal Shakti as well as the states of Punjab and Haryana and also the state of Rajasthan to lend full cooperation in resolving the issue. The bench granted four months to the Centre to submit a progress report.
“Water is a natural resource and living beings must learn to share it, whether it be individuals, states or countries,” it observed and posted the matter for hearing on January 19 next year.