Hon’ble Capt. Amarinder Singh
Chief Minister, Punjab
Sub : Punjab River Waters.
We are deeply grateful for being given an opportunity to share our concern over the exploitation of Punjab river waters by non-riparian States.
In continuation of our letter dated the 24th June 2002 and the accompanying report, Punjab River Waters and the SYL Canal, we take this opportunity to lay particular stress on the following points in preparing the case for the Supreme Court :
1. According to the Riparian Law doctrine for exercising control of river waters, a river is a part and parcel of the territory of Riparian States which have exclusive control over it. This principle is universally accepted and is incorporated unambiguously in the Indian Constitution as well, vide Entry 17 of List II of the Seventh Schedule which reads :
“Waters, that is to say, water supplies, irrigation and canals drainage and embarkments, water storage and water power subject to the provisions of Entry 56 of List-I”
Entry 56 of List I of Indian Constitution limits the Union’s authority to “regulate and develop ‘inter-State rivers’ and river valleys to the extent to which such regulation and development under the control of the Union is declared by Parliament to be expedient in the Public interest”.
In addition, Article 262 of the Indian Constitution states
a) Parliament may by law provide for adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to use, distribution or control of waters of, or in any inter-State river or river valley.
b) Notwithstanding anything in the Constitution, Parliament may by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint as is referred to in Clause (I).
Further, it may be added that regarding a river, the unit State has full and exclusive legislative and executive powers under Article 246(3) and 162 of the Indian Constitution. It is pertinent to mention that Entry 56(ibid.) and Article 262 mentioned above confer authority to Parliament to legislate only in regard to “inter-State rivers” and not in regard to waters of a State, over which the concerned State alone has exclusive and final authority.
2. It is abundantly clear that authority of the Union Government on rivers and river valleys is limited to “inter-State rivers” only. This has been confirmed by the Supreme Court in its judgement, vide para 14 in the matter of Cauvery Water Dispute (AIR 1992, S.C., page 522)
3. No claim has ever been accepted from a non-riparian State for use of a river water. It is well known that claim of Rajasthan to Narmada river waters was rejected on the same ground. More recently, Yamuna waters were allocated only among riparian States, and Punjab was not given any share, although it was as much a successor State as Haryana.
4. In view of the situation explained above, it is incorrect to use the term ‘sharing of river waters’ while dealing with claim from Haryana or Rajasthan. For, in fact, no such claim lies.
5. Haryana is not riparian to any of the three Punjab Rivers, viz., Satluj, Beas and Ravi. One simply has to look at the map to find out that while Punjab is a part of the Indus Basin, Haryana belongs to the Yamuna-Gangetic Basin. The two basins are clearly divided by the Ghaggar river, which constitutes the dividing watershed.
6. Rajasthan, too, is not riparian to the Punjab Rivers. If at all any proof is needed, the following examples should be
a) The Gang Canal which serves erstwhile Bikaner State of Rajasthan was supplied waters only on payment of royalty or seigniorage to the Punjab Government. This would have been unnecessary, if Bikaner / Rajasthan were riparian.
b) Rajasthan Government admitted that it was not riparian to Punjab Rivers when it claimed a share of Narmada Waters, on the plea that it was getting water from the Punjab even though it was non-riparian. The claim was rightly rejected.
c) In the Indus Waters Treaty 1960, only Satluj, Beas and Ravi are mentioned. There is no mention of the river Ghaggar. It clearly shows that it is not a part of the Indus river system. Thus, Haryana, which is beyond Ghaggar, cannot by any stretch of imagination be regarded as a part of the Indus Basin.
7. Stress on area of arable land as a basis for allocation of river waters is not relevant, and, in fact, may be counterproductive, since it dilutes the impact of the Riparian Law, and would favour Rajasthan with much larger area. Riparian Law has to apply irrespective of the needs of any State. In this regard, the views of the Joint Parliamentary Committee during the drafting of the Constitution may be cited :
“The effect of this is to give each Province complete powers over water supplies within the Province without any regard whatever to the interests of neighbouring Provinces.”
8. Legitimate rights of the Punjab State over its river waters, guaranteed by the Constitution, have been violated through unconstitutional legislation. Sections 78, 79 and 80 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act 1966 are the cases in point. These were apparently added with malafide intention to deprive the Punjab State and its farmers of their constitutional rights. It is imperative, therefore, to challenge these Sections in the Supreme Court to get the wrong rectified before a Constitutional Bench.
9. Apart from unconstitutional diversion of Punjab river waters to non-riparian States, the control of its rivers was passed to the BBMB. This again is unconstitutional and the Supreme Court should be moved to restore the control to the Punjab State
10. The Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh organised a Seminar on the Punjab River Waters and the SYL Canal on the 10th November, 2002. Sardar S S Boparai, who presided over the morning session, posed a number of questions (copy enclosed) which clearly point to a regrettable bias against the Punjab, on the part of the Union Government.
11. In the above Seminar, a number of papers were presented which provide valuable information on the subject. Some of these papers may be helpful in preparing the Punjab Case and are, therefore, enclosed :
i. ‘A Way Out of the Water Dispute’ (Dr Kharak Singh)
ii. River Waters (Harbinder Pal Singh)
iii. Punjab Waters - SYL Canal (Dr Gurmit Singh)
iv. Punjab Waters - SYL Canal (H.S. Mattewal, former A.G. Punjab)
v. Punjab River Waters Dispute — Constitutional Aspect (Gurdev Singh)
vi. SYL : Does Punjab Have Water to Spare for Haryana ? (Dr G. S. Dhillon)
vii. SYL : A Retrospective Look ( Dr Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon)
viii. The Punjab River Water Issue (Dr Rajinder Singh Bajwa)
ix. A Time for Action on SYL (Sukhdev Singh Journalist)
12. In the end, we reiterate our assurance to assist the Government in the preparation and follow-up of the case.
With kindest regards, Yours faithfully,
Dr G. S. Kalkat S. Gurdev Singh Dr Kharak Singh
Ex-V.C., PAU, LDH IAS (Retd.) Ex-FAO Econ. Advisor
Institute Of Sikh Studies
Punjab River Waters Defence Council
November 15, 2002