Supreme Court of India, ( Screen-grab copyrights: Hindustan Times)
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New Delhi:

Emphasizing on an amicable solution, the Supreme Court on Tuesday gave four months to Punjab, Haryana and the Centre to develop a consensus between the two states over the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal asked a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra for three months to conduct discussions towards an amicable solution. The court agreed to extend the time-frame to hold talks and said it was ready to give four more months on the matter.

Counsel for Haryana government, however, asked the court to allocate a definite time-frame to conclude the talks.

On Monday, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had called on Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. Reportedly, the water ministry has already held several meetings, attended by the Chief Secretaries of both two states, but the matter remained inconclusive.

Punjab has sought the Centre’s intervention to arrive at a negotiated settlement on the matter. The apex court had earlier told the parties concerned to come to a decision on the construction of the SYL canal, and it will only decide on the matter if negotiations could not resolve it.

The controversial 1981 water-sharing agreement, after Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966, is the core of the deadlock. SYL Canal was supposed to be constructed for effective allocation of water within the two states.

While Haryana constructed its portion of the canal, Punjab, after the initial phase, stopped the work, which led to multiple cases. In a decree on Haryana’s suit, the top court in 2002 ordered Punjab to honour its commitments on water sharing. In 2004, Punjab rolled out the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act to end the 1981 agreement and all other pacts connected with sharing waters of Ravi and Beas rivers.

Punjab filed an original suit in the apex court, which was rejected in 2004. The suit had asked the Centre to take control over the remaining construction of the canal project. In November 2016, the apex court referred a law passed by the Punjab Assembly in 2004 unconstitutional, as it terminated the SYL canal water-sharing agreement with neighbouring states. In 2017, Punjab returned the land to be used for the construction of the canal, to its original owners.

The top court has said repeatedly that it is not inclined to go through the facts and issues already adjudicated upon, and the decree that it has been passed has to be executed.

Haryana has maintained that construction of the canal should not be delayed and that the delay in execution of the top court’s decree passed in 2002 will not go down well in establishing common people’s faith in the judiciary. Punjab had, however, told the top court that the canal land returned to the landowners is not possible to be recovered.

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