There was never any doubt that Punjab’s legislative adventurism in enacting a law in 2004 to terminate all previous agreements on sharing the waters of the Ravi and the Beas with its neighbours would not survive judicial scrutiny. Answering a Presidential reference on the validity of Punjab’s action, the Supreme Court has declared the State’s law illegal. It has ruled that Punjab reneged on its solemn promises by terminating its 1981 agreement with Haryana and Rajasthan to discharge itself of the obligation to construct the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal. Its objective was to overcome the 2004 decree passed by the Supreme Court directing it to complete the canal work expeditiously. The court’s reasoning draws from previous verdicts relating to the Cauvery and Mullaperiyar disputes, reiterating the principle that “a State cannot, through legislation, do an act in conflict with the judgment of the highest court which has attained finality.” It is another matter if legislation takes the form of a validating Act to cure specific illegalities or one that removes the basis for a particular verdict. The verdict by a five-member Bench is a timely reminder that it would be destructive of the rule of law and federalism if a State were to be allowed to usurp judicial powers by nullifying a verdict that has rendered findings on both fact and law.

As Punjab heads for the Assembly election, this issue has already led to posturing by all major parties on which among them is the best protector of the State’s interests. This attitude leads to a disturbing tendency among States to be judges in their own cause, especially when it comes to water disputes. Political parties in power increasingly resort to legislation or Assembly resolutions rather than negotiation. The Opposition parties collaborate in this with equal zeal, lest they be seen to be wanting in passion for the cause. Punjab may well have had legitimate grievances, historically, in the sharing of waters. This was, in fact, the reason the Rajiv-Longowal accord of 1985 contained clauses relating to river-water sharing too. Earlier, differences were first settled by a notification by the Centre in 1976. When the matter led to litigation, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi brokered an agreement in 1981. In effect, the present arrangements, which Punjab seeks to wriggle out of, are backed by three agreements. The Supreme Court ruled against Punjab in 2002 as well as in 2004. The State’s obligation to allow the completion of the SYL Link Canal, so that Haryana can utilise the share of water allocated to it, cannot be frustrated any more. If Punjab feels aggrieved, there may be scope for negotiation and conciliation even now, but it cannot take action unilaterally.

Source:- The Hindu

Important Words in the Article & Their Meaning 

1. Scrutiny (noun) (समीक्षा) – 
  • critical observation or examination
  • Synonyms – review, inquiry
  • Ex: If you want to fly on an airplane, you should be prepared to deal with scrutiny from the airline personnel.
2. Reneged (verb) (मुकर)– 
  • go back on a promise, undertaking, or contract
  • Synonyms – default, reverse
  • Ex: I went to another car dealer after the salesman tried to renege on the low price he initially offered me.
3. Solemn (adjective) (गंभीर)– 
  • formal and dignified
  • Synonyms – earnest, intense
  • Antonyms – excited, joyful
  • Ex: There was no humor in the principal’s solemn face as she talked about the consequences of school bullying.
4. Expeditiously (adjective) (तेजी से)– 
  • done with speed and efficiency
  • Synonyms – carefully, eagerly
  • Antonyms – idly, quietly
  • Ex: Forrest was forced to shut the operation down, which he did quite expeditiously.
5. Verdicts (noun) (फैसले) – 
  • an opinion or judgement
  • Synonyms – answer, award
  • Antonyms – accusation
  • Ex: The verdict is given by a simple majority.
6. Nullifying (verb) (समाप्त करते हुये)– 
  • make legally null and void, invalidate
  • Synonyms – abolish, invalidate
  • Antonyms – legalize, support
  • Ex: Hopefully the coffee will nullify the drowsy effects of the medication and allow me to stay awake.
7. Rendered (verb) (प्रदान की गई है) – 
  • provide or give (a service, help, etc.)
  • Synonyms – accomplished, done
  • Ex: Because of the principal’s unexpected death, grief counselors will be available at the school to render support to staff and students.
8. Collaborate (verb) (सहयोग) – 
  • work jointly on an activity or project
  • Synonyms – collude, concert
  • Antonyms – disagree, part
  • Ex: The software engineers will collaborate on the project to make sure it is available to the customer on the agreed upon date.
9. Grievances (noun) (शिकायतों) – 
  • a real or imagined cause for complaint, especially unfair treatment
  • Synonyms – injustice, sorrow
  • Antonyms – delight, benefit
  • Ex: The dishonest police chief ignored my grievance against one of his officers.
10. Aggrieved (adjective) (पीड़ित) – 
  • feeling resentment at having been unfairly treated
  • Synonyms – disturbed, harmed
  • Antonyms – comforted, pleased
  • Ex: His face was aggrieved, because he had woke up and found himself alone.
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