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Status quo on SYL being maintained in Punjab, SC told

New Delhi: The central government told the Supreme Court on Thursday that in pursuance to its March 17 order, the status quo in respect of the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal stretch falling within Punjab was being maintained and situation was “fine”.

“Things are OK?” Justice Anil R.Dave asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar at the outset of the hearing on the presidential reference on the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004, by the constitution bench headed by him.

“Yes things are fine. Status quo is being maintained,” Ranjit Kumar told the constitution bench also comprising Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Amitava Roy.

The court had ordered status quo on Haryana’s plea in the wake of Punjab assembly unanimously passing Punjab Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal (Rehabilitation and Re-vesting of Proprietary Rights) Bill, 2016 for restoring the land to the farmers from whom it was acquired for constructing Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal for carrying river Ravi and river Beas water to Haryana.

The court by its March 17 order had said, “prima facie, it appears that an effort has been made to see that execution of a decree of this court is being made inexcutable and this court cannot be a silent spectator of the said fact and therefore, we direct that status quo shall be maintained by the parties with regard to the following properties” connected with the stretch of SYL canal in Punjab.

It had appointed the union home Secretary, Punjab’s chief secretary and director general of police as court’s receivers and vested in them the properties relating to SYL stretch in Punjab with a direction that they would ensure that status quo was maintained.

Besides informing that the status quo was being maintained, the government told the court that on the Presidential reference on the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004, it was opting for neutral position and was not siding either with Punjab or with Haryana.

It gave its position after senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan appearing for Punjab asked the Solicitor General to spell out the central government’s stand on the issue.

“If they knew the answer, why would they have made the reference?” the bench observed as Dhavan contended that it was not just a water sharing issue but involved a question of policy.

By 2004 law that was passed during the tenure of the then chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, Punjab had terminated all water sharing agreement with neighbouring Haryana and other states.