Duty Of State To Provide Right Of Access To Drinking Water Viz. Article 21: Delhi High Court

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The Delhi High has recently observed that access to drinking water is a fundamental right with it's genesis in Article 21 of the Constitution and as such, it is the duty of the State to provide clean drinking water to its citizens.

A single judge bench of Justice Jayant Nath reiterated the legal position in a petition filed by 53 veterans, decorated officers, war-widows and Armed Forces Personnel who were allotted plots in the residential area under a scheme formulated by the then Defence Minister, VK Krishna Menon in the year 1961. According to the petitioner, the said residential plots lacked basic essential amenities such as water, electricity, sewage and road.

The petitioners further contended that they had been paying tax to Municipal Corporation of Delhi (hereinafter referred as, MCD) at urban rates, however, for the past 30 years, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) had failed to provide basic facilities to the petitioners, stating that the said colony in question, falls in the category of "Unauthorised Affluent Colony".

Taking into account the factual matrix in the present case, the court, cited the judgment of Apex Court in A.P. Pollution Control Board II vs. Prof.M. V. Nayudu (Retd.) & Ors., (2001) 2 SCC 62 which had held that 

“Drinking water is of primary importance in any country. In fact, India is a party to the resolution of the UNO passed during the United Nations Water Conference in 1977 as under: 

“All people, whatever their stage of development and their social and economic conditions, have the right to have access to drinking water in quantum and of a quality equal to their basic needs.”

The court noted that the petitioners can’t be deprived of the right to access to drinking water merely on the ground that it is an unauthorized colony.

The petitioners have been residing in the said area for the last 50 years and cannot continuously be deprived of this right to access to drinking and portable water.”

Thus, the Court directed Delhi Jal Board to make an appropriate scheme as per their normal procedure for supply of portable drinking water available to the 54 petitioners.

The same shall be framed and implemented expeditiously, preferably within 9 months, said the bench.

As regards the colony being used unauthorisedly, the court observed that “the aim of the scheme was to ease the agony of Armed Forces Personnel by providing them housing plots at reasonable rates to enable them to lead a peaceful retired life. Further, it was on the advice of the Home Minister and the Chief Commissioner of Delhi, the Ministry of Defence bought agricultural land from farmers in South Delhi. It is hence evident that the plots were allotted to the petitioners for residential purposes only.”

Case Title: Delhi Sainik Cooperative Housing Building Society Ltd. (Regd.) Vs. Union of India and Ors.