The Bombay High Court said that the supply of regular drinking water is a fundamental right and it is unfortunate that citizens have to knock the doors of the Court for water supply even after 75 years of independence (Shobha Vikas Bhoi & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra & Ors.)
The observations were made by a Bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and Milind Jadhav while hearing a petition filed by residents of Kambe village in Thane district, Maharashtra seeking supply of drinking water on a daily basis.
The petitioners pointed out that their village gets water supply only twice a month, that too for approximately 2 hours. The court said that this is their fundamental right. People cannot suffer like this. It is really unfortunate that they (petitioners) have to knock on the court doors even after 75 years of independence to get a water supply. The plea had sought directions to be issued to STEM Water Distribution and Infra Company Pvt Ltd, responsible for water supply in the affected areas, to supply water regularly to the village of the petitioners on daily basis.
The Managing Director of STEM on Wednesday submitted that water was supplied to the village daily but at only one particular point and distribution from that point to the entire village was the responsibility of the village gram panchayat. The demand for water has also increased since the last few years due to the increase in population hence there is a requirement to upgrade the system, the MD submitted. The Court, however, pulled up the MD enquiring what were the citizens supposed to do until the up-gradation of the system. Justice Kathawalla emphasized that it was pertinent that water is supplied daily for at least a few hours. The Bench also warned the civic authorities asking them to take appropriate steps in order to avoid strictures from the judiciary.
Don’t force us to say that the Maharashtra government has failed to provide water to its citizens. We refuse to accept that the State is so helpless. But we will not shy away from calling the highest functionary (if required).In the plea filed through advocate RD Suryawanshi, the petitioners highlighted a series of representations made by them to the local authorities and the meetings held regarding the issue of water supply. They alleged that STEM was illegally supplying water to local political leaders and tanker lobbies and that there were over 300 illegal water connections and valves fixed on the main pipeline. The Bench sought to know from the MD what steps were being taken to tackle this issue, They expressed their surprise over the fact that no complaint or action had been taken against the illegal connections by the company so far.
When the MD sought to argue that STEM's efforts to remove illegal connections were met with protests by the villagers, the Court directed him to file an affidavit and listed the same for further hearing on September 9, 2021.