NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a PIL seeking declaration of the Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan as illegal and unconstitutional. “This treaty is of 1960 and this treaty has held good for more than half a century,” a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said while dismissing the PIL filed by lawyer M L Sharma in his personal capacity.
The bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, however, made clear that the order dismissing the PIL “does not put any impairment on anybody”. The clarification came when Sharma said that the dismissal of the PIL should not put any restriction in the way of the government if it wants to review the Indo-Pak water pact.
During the brief hearing, it was argued that the Indus water pact was not a treaty at all as the same was not signed in the name of the President of India. “It was a tripartite agreement between three leaders and void ab initio (illegal at the outset) and hence cannot be acted upon,” the lawyer said.
The court said that it has perused the entire petition and does not wish to agree with it. The Indus water agreement was executed on September 19, 1960 between India, Pakistan and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the World Bank. Besides Nehru, the then Pakistan President Mohammad Ayub Khan and W A B Iliff for the World Bank were its signatories.
The apex court had last year refused to grant an urgent hearing on the PIL, saying there was no urgency in the matter while Sharma, who filed the PIL in his personal capacity on the issue, to “keep politics aside”. Sharma, in his PIL, had referred to Article 77 of the Constitution and said it mandates that all executive action of the government shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the President.
However in the case of the 1960 Indus waters treaty, it has been signed by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and “nowhere it is declared that the said agreement/treaty has been signed in the name of the President of India”, the plea had said. “According to the ministry of external affairs documents, nowhere disclosed further that the said agreement has been signed by the Jawaharlal Nehru for the President of India…,” it had said.
Sharma had said, “According to the impugned agreement 80 per cent water goes to Pakistan which is a serious injury to the fundamental right of the citizens of India coupled with further financial and natural injuries to national interest.” The treaty was “against the national interest and violated fundamental right of the citizen of India effecting their life and livelihood”, it had said.