Punjab-Himachal disagreement over the Shanan Hydropower Project

  • A long-running dispute between Punjab and Himachal Pradesh over ownership of the Shanan hydropower project has worsened, prompting legal action by both parties.
  • The project’s 99-year lease expired on March 2, and the Centre has issued directives to maintain the status quo until a final judgement is made. 

Shanan Hydropower Project and the Dispute

  • The Shanan Hydropower Project is located on the Uhl River, a tributary of the Beas River, in Mandi district, Himachal Pradesh, India.
  • British-era Lease: Raja Joginder Bahadur, then-ruler of Mandi, leased the 110-MW Shanan hydroelectric facility to Punjab in 1925 under a 99-year lease arrangement.
  • Competing Claims: Himachal Pradesh claims that the project should revert to its control once the lease expires, citing historical and legal grounds.
  • Economic Implications: The project will have a considerable economic impact on both states, increasing their power generation capacity and promoting regional development. 

Punjab’s Claims over the Project

  • Punjab claims ownership of the project, which previously provided power to undivided Punjab and Delhi prior to Independence. The project was awarded to Punjab after the 1966 state reorganisation.
  • Legal Basis: Punjab asserts legal jurisdiction over the project under the provisions of the Punjab Reorganisation Act of 1966, as reinforced by a government notification issued in 1967.
  • Utilisation of Resources: Punjab claims that it has invested in the project’s upkeep and operation, making it an important part of its energy infrastructure. 

Legal Proceedings and the Center’s Intervention

  • Punjab has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court, seeking a permanent injunction to prevent Himachal Pradesh from interfering with its rightful control of the project.
  • Interim Status Quo Order: Invoking its authorities under relevant laws, the Centre has ordered that the project continue to operate until a final decision is made, emphasising the importance of maintaining stability for the public.
  • Legal Interpretation: The interpretation of previous agreements and legislative acts will be critical in determining the project’s proper ownership.

Implications and Future Course of Action

  • Interim Measure: The Centre’s directive is intended to prevent disruption in the operation of the Shanan Power House until the disagreement is addressed.
  • Legal Framework: Both parties are expected to cooperate within the legal framework to resolve the disagreement while adhering to due process and fairness.
  • Regional Cooperation: A collaborative approach between Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, encouraged by federal authorities, could result in a mutually advantageous resolution and promote interstate harmony.

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