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FPJ Legal: Daily drinking water a fundamental right, says Bombay High Court

05:19 PM Sep 08, 2021 | Urvi Mahajani

Mumbai: Supply of regular drinking water was a fundamental right and it was really unfortunate that people have to knock the court doors to get water even after 75 years of independence, observed the Bombay High Court on Wednesday while hearing a petition by residents of Kambe village at Bhiwandi in neighbouring Thane district who have been receiving water twice a month and that too for approximately two hours a day.

The observations were made by justices SJ Kathawalla and Milind Jadhav while hearing petition by Shobha Bhoi and others seeking direction to STEM Water Distribution and Infra company, a joint venture by the Thane Zilla Parishad and the Bhiwandi Nizampur city municipal corporation, to supply drinking water on a daily basis.

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The Managing Director of STEM Bhausaheb Dangde told the HC on Wednesday that they were supplying water daily but only to one particular point and claimed that distribution of water from that point to the homes of the petitioners was the responsibility of the gram panchayat of the said village.

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Dange further said that the demand for water in the said village has increased since a few years owing to an increase in the population there. He said that they needed to upgrade their system.

To this Justice Kathawalla questioned as to what should the villagers do till their system was upgraded. “Water has to be supplied daily for at least a few hours. This is their fundamental right. People cannot suffer like this. It is really unfortunate that they (petitioners) have to knock the court doors even after 75 years of independence to get water supply,” said Justice Kathawalla.

Observing that it was unacceptable to believe that the Maharashtra government was so helpless, the judges said that they will not hesitate from calling the highest functionary from the state.

Justice Kathawalla said: “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 government is so helpless. We will not shy from calling the highest functionary of the state government.”

The villagers have contended in the petition that the STEM company was supplying water illegally to local political leaders and tanker lobbies. They further claimed that there are over 300 illegal water tapping/connections and valves fixed on the main pipeline.

The HC questioned Dange as to what the company had done to address the problem.

“First remove these illegal connections. You (STEM) have not even bothered to file any police complaints. Because of your inaction, the petitioners who have to receive water as a right are not getting any water,” said Justice Kathawalla.

The HC also observed that the company did not seem interested in solving the problem.

Dange told the court that whenever they go to remove the illegal connections, a crowd of over 150 persons gather and protest.

The HC has directed Dange to remain physically present in the court on September 9 (Thursday) and file an affidavit.

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