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Void, Non Est Agreements
All agreements — written or oral, explicit or implied by conduct of parties— must be honoured. To be enforceable and acted upon the agreements ought to be valid. To be valid, the agreements ought to have been executed by the competent parties volitionally for legal consideration and lawful purpose.
Of all the dispensations wrought on 24.03.76, 31.12.81and 24.07.85 only the one of 31.12.81 was termed as an agreement. Even it were so, it would be a lawful contract only if it had the basic ingredients of a contract. It was misnomer to call it an agreement. It was ab-initio flawed and void. It was rephrased delineation of the Central Government’s fiat of 24.03.76 notification apportioning Punjab river waters which Chief Ministers of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party, were commandeered to put their signatures on along with that of the Prime Minister. None of the signatories were competent and authorized to execute the so called agreement. Punjab’s case (Suit No. 2 of 1979) challenging the vires of the Punjab State Reorganization Act,1966 and the allocation made by the Central Government vide notification of 24.03.76 was pending before the Supreme Court, then how and on what authority Chief Minister, Punjab could be competent and purporting to act volitionally in subscribing to the 31.12.81 agreement. He publically expressed his anguish and disgustful disapproval of the 31.12.81 arrangement lamenting that he was forced to sign it at gun point. Rajasthan is neither riparian to Punjab rivers nor is it a successor State to the pre-reorganized Punjab. So in what capacity did Chief Minister, Rajasthan add his signature to the agreement ? In what capacity the Prime Minister attested the agreement — as a witness, facilitator, scribe — is not indicated. Further the purpose and consideration of the agreement was division of Punjab river waters, which was subject matter of the suit pending before the Supreme Court. It is thus apparent that the parties executing the 31.12.81 document were not competent/authorized persons, they all were not acting for lawful purpose and legal consideration and every one of them was not acting according to his free will. Notification of 24.03.76 was Central Government’s decision allocating Punjab river waters pursuant to the provisions of the Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966 whose very vires were not accepted by Punjab and were challenged in the Supreme Court subsequently. On receipt of the 24.03.76 notification, Zail Singh, Chief Minister, Punjab was greatly perturbed. A protégé and nominee of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from her Congress party, he was mortally scared to oppose it. To save his face and ward off people’s wrath against him and his party a subterfuge was resorted to through the intercession of P.N. Haskar and with her acquiescent nod. It was that Zail Singh would write to the Prime Minister to kindly reconsider the decision. All this clearly indicates that even he did not approve of the 24.03.76 decision, rejection of which by the people of Punjab was too apparent. The next Chief Minister of Punjab was Prakash Singh Badal of Shiromani Akali Dal and they were vehemently opposed to the notification. When the issue could not be resolved litigation before the Supreme Court ensued. The State of Punjab filed suit No.2 of 1979 in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of the notification. That suit was withdrawn after the signing of the 31.12.81 agreement whose legal worth has been discussed above. The 24.07.85 memorandum of understanding termed as Punjab Settlement has no contractual value. It was an attempt by two political leaders to effect settlement of long lingering Punjab impasse. Its signatories Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Shiromani Akali Dal President Harchand Singh Longowal had no legal representative role and were not competent to execute agreement regarding the river waters of Punjab.
Furthermore, it is evident that the 24.03.76 order was suppressed by the 31.12.81 agreement and the latter was set aside by the 24.07.85 settlement. To clinch the issue beyond doubt, the 31.12.81 agreement stands repudiated by the Punjab Assembly resolution of 05.11.80.