SC extends status quo on SYL Canal land in Punjab

New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday extended its status quo order on the land acquired in Punjab for the construction of Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal, giving Punjab time till February 20 to file its response to the Haryana government’s plea challenging the de-notification of land acquired for the purpose.

Giving Punjab time till February 20 to file its response, the bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Amitava Roy said it would hear the matter on February 22. It rejected Punjab’s plea for holding the hearing after March 11 — the day of counting of votes of state assembly election.

While extending the status quo order, the bench said it would remain in force till they decide Haryana’s challenge to the November 16, 2016, notification de-notifying the lands acquired for constructing the SYL Canal in Punjab stretch.

The court, in its last hearing of the matter on January 18, had made it clear that Punjab cannot escape from constructing the canal as ordered by the court in 2002 and 2004.

Haryana has challenged Punjab government’s November 16 notification to de-notify the land acquired for constructing of the SYL Canal and restoring these lands to their original owners.

The Punjab government issued the notification after the state assembly passed a resolution directing the government not to release land for construction of the SYL Canal and the subsequent cabinet decision to this effect.

Haryana has told the court that the Punjab decision to de-notify the land acquired for constructing of the SYL and return them to their original owners was in violation of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 and the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966.

The court has earlier appointed the receivers for the “land, works, property and portions of the SYL Canal” stretch falling in Punjab, and asked them to file a report on the ground situation of the property.

The bench was on January 18 told that there was no deliberate damage to the property, a position that was contested by Haryana.

The top court’s constitution bench had, in its advisory opinion on a Presidential reference on November 10, 2016, held as unconstitutional the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, passed by the state assembly.

Following this, the Punjab government had de-notified 5,376 acres of land acquired from 4,980 owners for the canal.