HC dismisses petition seeking compensation for IWT losses

Jammu: The J&K High Court has dismissed a petition seeking directions to Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Government of India to compensate people of Jammu and Kashmir on account of loss due to Indus Water Treaty (IWT) of 1960.
Besides, the petition had sought directions to state government to take steps for forcing Punjab to build up the barrage at Shahpur Kandi in Gurdaspur (Punjab) as per the Water Sharing Agreement of 1955 and 1979 for getting 1150 cusec of water from river Ravi.
The petitioner, Balraj Bakshi, had also sought direction to the state government to provide drinking water to the people free of cost and also to create alternative resources of water in the kandi belt.
IWT was entered between India and Pakistan to attain complete and satisfactory utilization of the waters of the Indus system of rivers and the same is in force, a division bench headed by Chief Justice M M Kumar observed in its order.
The petitioner had alleged that as a result of the Treaty, India had to pay 63 million pounds to Pakistan as compensation for irrigation projects.
“An effort has been made to highlight various features of the Treaty and certain obligations undertaken between the two governments,” the bench, also comprising Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar, observed.
“However, we are avoiding to give detailed sketch of various features of the Treaty as in the ultimate analysis we find the same to be irrelevant,” it said.
The bench also asked S.S.Lehar, counsel for the petitioner, to enlighten the court regarding existence of any law as to whether any individual could feel aggrieved by such a Treaty particularly when it has been in force for the last over 54 years.
The bench also asked the senior counsel how can directions be issued to the state government to raise dispute with Punjab in the face of original jurisdiction of Supreme Court under Article 131 of the Constitution to entertain such disputes.
“All that is submitted by advocate Lehar is that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have lost huge water and they paid huge price for the drinking water and the obligations under various treaties have not been fulfilled,” the court said.
After hearing the senior counsel, the bench said, it was left with the impression that “a luxurious litigation is sought to be initiated for some extraneous considerations.”
“We have our doubts about the authenticity of the cause projected by the petitioner styling the same as public interest litigation and there appear to be some oblique motive.
“In any case on legal issues, the petitioner cannot maintain this petition. A casual look at the prayer made by the petitioner reveals that he has sought directions to the (J&K State) to raise dispute with Punjab. For inter-State dispute Article 131 of the Constitution vets exclusive jurisdiction with the Supreme Court of India.
“A perusal of the (the) provision (of Article 131) would show that Supreme Court enjoys the original jurisdiction to the exclusion of any other court in respect of dispute between Government of India and one or more states or Government of India or any state or states on one side and one or more states on the other or between two or more states,” the court said.
Therefore, the bench said, once the area of jurisdiction was covered by Article 131, the petition raising the bogies of public interest cannot agitate these issues before a writ court under Article 226 of the Constitution.
“We have not been able to persuade ourselves to entertain this petition for the reason that Indus Water Treaty, 1960 is in operation for the last over 54 years. A treaty like Indus Water Treaty was entered between two sovereign countries with the object of attaining complete and satisfactory utilization of waters of the Indus system of rivers,” the bench said, adding, “We must lean towards the presumption that it is for optimum utilization of water for the benefits of the population of both countries. How it could cause loss to the citizen is beyond our comprehension.”
The bench said that it was further of the view that the dispute between the J&K and Punjab has to be resolved by invoking the original jurisdiction under Article 131 of the Constitution by either of the state.
“There is, thus, no room for us to entertain the instant petition,” the court said, dismissing the petition with costs of Rs.10,000.