NEW DELHI: Why is there no provision for clean drinking water for citizens in public places like bus stands even though the government has allowed kiosks to come up and sell bottled water? Is right to clean drinking water not part of right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution? These questions were raised in a PIL filed by NGO ‘Voice of India‘ which was on Monday entertained by a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia despite his known aversion to PILs. For the NGO, Dhanesh Iesdhan argued before the bench, which also comprised Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar, that if right to clean drinking water was a fundamental right then the governments and municipal bodies must take responsibility and supply it free to the citizens.
He said in those public places where there was provision for free drinking water, the quality of water and condition of storage tanks was so bad that it could be hardly termed safe for drinking purposes. The petitioner requested the SC to issue a direction to all authorities to supply water to every citizen in this country free of cost. The bench agreed with the demand of the petitioner and said: “We are fully conscious of the fact that even after 60 years a citizen of this country is not getting clean potable water.” But, it realised that it would be a gigantic task for the SC to monitor this PIL for implementation of free drinking water in all states and Union territories. “It is, however, not possible for this court to monitor and grant relief to the petitioner on all India basis,” it said.
The petitioner seeks relief essentially against municipal corporations in each state because supply of clean potable water is the function of municipal corporations and other local bodies. Even instances given in the annexures relate to different sectors/localities within the municipalities in different states,” it noted. “In the circumstances, we are of the view that the petitioner may move the concerned high court with regard to its grievances, particularly when such grievances are confined to municipal areas and to specific areas where citizens do not get clean potable water for drinking. We cannot monitor such local institutions under Article 32 of the Constitution,” the bench said.