The case of State of Haryana v. State of Punjab (2002) relates to the completion of the Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal by the State of Punjab as it was agreed with the State of Haryana. The question regarding the meaning of dispute of river waters, the extent of jurisdiction and the role of the central government was subsequently discussed.… Read More »

The case of State of Haryana v. State of Punjab (2002) relates to the completion of the Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal by the State of Punjab as it was agreed with the State of Haryana. The question regarding the meaning of dispute of river waters, the extent of jurisdiction and the role of the central government was subsequently discussed. Citation: (2002) 2 SCC 507 : AIR 2002 SC 685 Coram: G.B. Pattanaik ()J, Ruma Pal (J). Factual Background There was an agreement between the States of Punjab...

The case of State of Haryana v. State of Punjab (2002) relates to the completion of the Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal by the State of Punjab as it was agreed with the State of Haryana. The question regarding the meaning of dispute of river waters, the extent of jurisdiction and the role of the central government was subsequently discussed.

Citation: (2002) 2 SCC 507 : AIR 2002 SC 685

Coram: G.B. Pattanaik ()J, Ruma Pal (J).

Factual Background

There was an agreement between the States of Punjab and the State of Haryana to share the waters of River Sutlej. The Punjab Government was to construct the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal to carry this water to the State of Haryana but it defaulted in doing so. The State of Haryana filed a case under Article 131 of the Constitution against the State of Punjab and the Union of India to pass a decree directing the Punjab Government to construct the canal. The Punjab Government objected to the suit pleading that it was barred by Inter-State Water Disputes Act.

Issues

  1. The first issue relates to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in the matter.
  2. Whether in the facts and circumstances of the case, defendant No. 1 (the State of Punjab) and alternatively, defendant No. 2 (the Union of India), were and are bound to construct and complete in a time-bound manner, the Sutlej- Yamuna Link Canal Project, in the Punjab portion/territory and whether the plaintiff (State of Haryana) is entitled to the reliefs prayed for against the defendants?
  3. Is the suit not maintainable as contended in the written statements?
  4. Is the suit barred by limitation?

Arguments

Petitioner’s Arguments

  1. The dispute relating to the construction of the canal pursuant to an earlier agreement between the parties cannot be termed as a dispute and therefore Article 262 or Section 11 of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act will not bar the Supreme Court to exercise its jurisdiction under Article 131 of the Constitution.
  2. Though Article 112 of the Limitation Act relating to suits by or on behalf of the Central Government or any State Government is 30 years but the suits filed before the Supreme Court are specifically excluded from the purview of the same hence not being barred by limitation.
  3. The State of Haryana urged that if a State does not abide by the discipline of the Constitution and goes to the extent of flouting its basic structure, it is the duty of the Union of India to set things right and where the Union of India fails the Supreme Court must step in to preserve the basic feature of federalism.

Defendant’s Arguments

Defendant No. 1 (State of Punjab)

  1. The dispute falls within the scope of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 and consequently the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is barred on a combined reading of Section 11 of the Act and Article 262 of the Constitution.
  2. The petitioners highlighted the discontent of the people of Punjab and citing Federalism to be the basic feature of the Indian Constitution contended that, even though India’s federal system was devised to enable a wide range of distribution of powers in order to facilitate governance, but some areas of judicial unmanageability are delineated in the Constitution itself. Therefore, the claims made by the State of Haryana must be entreated as public entitlements with public implications. Therefore, the question regarding the maintainability of the petition was raised.

Defendant No. 2 (Union of India)

  1. There is no obligation on the part of the Union of India and relief claimed by the plaintiff can only be against the State of Punjab.
  2. Union of India had already discharged its obligation by pursuing and directing the Government of Punjab for early completion of Punjab portion of the canal and therefore the plaint against the Government of India is not maintainable and liable to be rejected.

Judgement

The Supreme Court negatived the contentions of Defendant No. 1 arguing that there was no water dispute between the States as they had already agreed to share the water. The question was regarding the obligation of the Punjab Government to construct the canal as a part of the agreement between the two States. The Court directed the Punjab Government to fulfil its obligation by completing the canal within a year.

Reference was made to Section 2(c) of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act and it was held that it would be a dispute within the meaning of the said Section when it is in relation to the use, distribution or control of the waters of any inter-state river.

But, the averments in the plaint of the State of Haryana is not in any way related to the use, distribution and control rather it centers around the question of obligation on the part of the State of Punjab to dig the portion of the SYL Canal within its territory which became necessary for carrying water from the project to the extent that has been already allocated in the favour of the State of Haryana by virtue of Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966 & subsequent agreement between the parties.

The apprehension regarding the State of Haryana might draw more water than which has been allocated was held to based on unfounded reasons as the source for drawing water is only from the reservoir, which lies in the territory of Punjab and a drop won’t flow within the canal unless the connecting doors are open. Therefore, the State of Haryana must be allowed to draw the quantity of water that has been already allocated in its favour.

The court further discussed the concept of federalism that in a semi-federal system of Government, which has been adopted under the Indian Constitution, all essential powers, both Legislative and executive have been conferred upon the Central Government. True federalism means the distribution of powers between a Central Authority and the Constituent Units.

The Supreme Court held that when the political authority becomes dogmatic, unreasonable and indicates an attitude of irresponsible nature that is when the Court has to step in and represent the will of people and must pass appropriate orders and directions.

The concept of federalism postulated by Dicey was brought into light that, a federal State is a political contrivance intended to reconcile national unity and powers with the maintenance of the State rights. The essence of a federation is, therefore, the existence of a Union and its States and the division of power between the Union and the State rights. The political integrity of the Union and each State seems to be essential to the federal concept. Authors, therefore, described our government to be a government that is federal in structure but unitary in its spirit.

In this case, the Supreme Court also held that the decision of one Government relating to the governance of a State or its execution would bind the successor government when it does not involve any political philosophy. The successor Government must complete unfinished jobs.

Deprecating the ‘vote bank’ politics, it observed, “The Constitution conceives a government to be manned by the representatives of the people, who get themselves elected in an election. The decision taken at the governmental level should not be so easily nullified by a change of Government and by such other political party assuming power, particularly when such a decision affects some other State and the interest of the nation as a whole.

It cannot be disputed that so far as the policy is concerned, a political party assuming power is entitled to engraft the political philosophy behind the party since they must be held to be the will of the people.”

Therefore, the Supreme Court held that the submissions presented by the Respondent No. 1 i.e the State of Punjab are of no consequence and appropriate directions were issued by the Court holding it was the solemn duty of the Central Government to see that the terms of the agreements were met.

Further, the issued a mandatory injunction directing the defendant state of Punjab to continue digging the portion of Sutlej Yamuna Canal which remained incomplete and Respondent No. 2 was directed to discharge its constitutional obligation in implementation of the issued direction and if not completed within a year by the State of Punjab the Union of India should get it done though its own agencies expeditiously.

Conclusion

It was argued that the suit was not maintainable in the view of Article 262. But the Court rejected the contention saying that there was no water dispute under Article 262 as the states had already agreed to share river water. The court issued a mandatory injunction directing the State of Punjab to complete the canal and make it functional within a year. The court also directed the Central Government to discharge its own constitutional obligation to ensure that the canal is completed as expeditiously as possible.


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Updated On 2022-01-19T06:07:53+05:30
Ritika Chaturvedi

Ritika Chaturvedi

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