The Supreme Court on 10 November 2016 said Punjab has no right to unilaterally terminate a 1981 arrangement signed for sharing of water

from the Ravi and Beas rivers with neighbouring Haryana through the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal. The ruling by a five-member constitution bench of the top court is a setback for the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal government in the state as it prepares for assembly elections early next year.

  1. The court said Punjab was under legal obligation to complete the project. In case, the state chooses obdurately not to do so, the court made it clear that the Centre would have to step in and complete it. 
  2. The Punjab assembly had in 2004 brought in a law terminating the agreement after the Supreme Court refused to absolve it of the legal obligation to build the canal. 
  3. The Haryana stretch of the canal is already complete. The Punjab stretch is nearly complete but heavily silted due to disuse. Some Rs 700 crore has already been spent on the project. 
  4. Under the 1981 agreement, Punjab was entitled to 4.22 million acre feet of water and Haryana 3.50 MAF. The existing Bhakra Main Canal supplies Haryana with only 1.62 MAF of water. The rest was to flow from SYL. 
  5. But Punjab expressed fears that the actual usage would be more than the allocated amount and that the water flow in the rivers had changed substantially over the years and has stubbornly refused to implement the agreement. Instead, it demanded that the water-sharing issue be referred to a tribunal again to be decided afresh after taking into account the current flow of water. 
  6. The state made repeated attempts to wriggle out of legal commitments, but hasn’t succeeded. 
  7. It lost a case in the top court in 2002 and again in 2004. It then brought in the law to abrogate the 1981 agreement, but has not received the assent of the governor.