Supreme Court: On a request made by President of India for an advisory opinion to this Court under Article 143 (1) of the Constitution of India, in relation to enactment of the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004, the Constitution bench of Anil R. Dave, Pinaki Chandra Ghose, Shiva Kirti Singh, Adarsh Kumar Goel and Amitava Roy, JJ held that one State, which is a party to the litigation or an Agreement, cannot unilaterally terminate the Agreement or nullify the decree of the highest Court of the country, the State of Punjab cannot discharge itself from its obligation which arises from the judgment and decree dated 15th January, 2002 and the judgment and order dated 4th January, 2004 and terminate the Agreement dated 31.12.1981 which deals with sharing of waters of Ravi and Beas rivers and all other Agreements relating to sharing of waters of rivers Ravi and Beas.

It was held that the Punjab Act cannot be considered to be legal and valid and the State of Punjab cannot absolve itself from its duties/liabilities arising out of the Agreement in question. There is a legal sanction to the said arrangement and once a binding decree has been passed by a Court of law, a party to the litigation cannot unilaterally act in a manner which would nullify the effect of the decree. Instead of approaching the appropriate authority, namely, the Tribunal for appropriate relief, the State of Punjab exercised its legislative power by enacting the Punjab Act so as to nullify the effect of the Decree.

The Court also said that if a legislation is found to have breached the established constitutional limitation such as separation of powers, it has to go and cannot be allowed to remain. The said Agreement could not have been unilaterally terminated by one of the parties to the Agreement by exercising its legislative power and if any party or any State does so, such unilateral action of a particular State has to be declared contrary to the Constitution of India as well as the provisions of the Inter State Water Disputes Act, 1956.

The President is authorized to refer to this Court a question of law or fact, which in his/her opinion is of such a nature and of such a public importance that it is expedient to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court upon it. [IN RE: THE PUNJAB TERMINATION OF AGREEMENT ACT, 2004, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1252, decided on 10.11.2016]


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