Right To Access To Drinking Water Is A Fundamental Right And It Is The Duty Of State Under Article 21 To Provide It To Citizens:Delhi High Court

Right To Access To Drinking Water Is A Fundamental Right And It Is The Duty Of State Under Article 21 To Provide It To Citizens:Delhi High Court

News UpdatesRight To Access To Drinking Water Is A Fundamental Right And It Is The Duty Of State Under Article 21 To Provide It To Citizens:Delhi High Court Nupur Thapliyal11 Jan 2021 11:03 PMShare This – xDelhi High Court has held that right to access to drinking water is fundamental to life and there is a duty of the State under Article 21 of the Constitution to provide clean drinking water to its citizensJustice Jayant Nath while dealing with a petition filed by 53 retired army veterans for regularization of Defence Service Enclave, which is considered by the Delhi Government…Your free access to Live Law has expiredTo read the article, get a premium account.Your Subscription Supports Independent JournalismSubscription starts from ₹ 599+GST (For 6 Months)View PlansPremium account gives you:Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.Subscribe NowAlready a subscriber?LoginDelhi High Court has held that right to access to drinking water is fundamental to life and there is a duty of the State under Article 21 of the Constitution to provide clean drinking water to its citizensJustice Jayant Nath while dealing with a petition filed by 53 retired army veterans for regularization of Defence Service Enclave, which is considered by the Delhi Government as an unauthorized colony, directed the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Urban Planning and GNCTD to convene a meeting for taking appropriate decision in dealing with the status of the said colony within 4 months. The bench also held that the petitioners cannot be denied basic facilities including the right to access drinking water merely on the ground that they reside in unauthorized colony. Subsequently, the court directed the Delhi Jal Board to make an appropriate scheme within 9 months as per their normal procedure for supply of portable drinking water to the petitioners in accordance with law. BACKGROUND OF THE CASE A group of 53 retired Armed Forces Personnel, veteran and war widows had approached the High Court seeking directions on Union of India, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Urban Planning Development to provide all civic facilities to their servants and agents which are duly available to other citizens who have ownership of land in the NCT of Delhi. These civic facilities include the right to supply of water, sewage connection, drainage system, roads and security etc. The petitioners had also sought appropriate directions from the Court on the respondents to declare the Defence Service Enclave, an area allotted to these people, inclusive of Master Plan of Delhi, 2020. The genesis of the case dates back to 1961 when these petitioners were to be allotted residential facilities under a scheme formulated by the then Defence Minister, VK Krishna Menon. However, due to non availability of land, the government had purchased lands in Revenue Estate of Khanpur and Khirkee but such lands were never notified as urban areas in 1966. Therefore, according to the petitioners, they had been paying taxes to the Municipal Corporation, Delhi at urban rates. The petitioners also contended that despite their repeated attempts from the past 30 years, the MCD had failed to provide a single facility to them under the ground that the Defence Service Enclave is an unauthorised colony and such an act is illegal and arbitrary. Timeline of events 2002: A writ petition was filed by the petitioners before the Delhi HC seeking regularization of unauthorized colonies.2003: Affidavit was filed by the Ministry of Defence wherein it had cleared that the lands the lands were given to the Society for construction of residential houses for residential purpose so that the Armed Forces are able to rehabilitate themselves in a proper and official manner in terms of the Army Order of May 1961.February 2010: Ministry of Urban Development had submitted that a policy decision would be taken by the end of 2010 to regularize unauthorized colonies including public and private land in Defence Service Enclave and parts of Sainik Farms.March 2010: Delhi Jal Board had assured the court the acute shortage of water would be solved.2014: Another writ petition was filed by the petitioners seeking affirmation of authorized status as a government approved scheme initiated in 1961 and to issue instructions to all authorities for providing basic facilities.April 2018: Representations were made by the petitioners to Municipal Corporation South Delhi and Delhi Jal Board in order to grant them the required facilities however the same went unanswered.2018: This writ petition was filed in the HC. Grounds of the Petitioners Despite years of assurance by the respondents, no steps have been taken in providing relief to the petitioners.Most of the dwelling units which were built with lime and mortar only, due to cement control, have become old and therefore are in urgent need of repairs.Poor infrastructure including the leakage in roofs and cracking of floors.The authorities including the local police do not allow the petitioners to repair/build their boundary walls.Petitioners are being denied the basic amenities and the right to enjoy life with dignity. Stand of the Respondents According to the Delhi Jal Board, the Defence Services Enclave is identified as one of the unauthorized colonies amongst the 1639 colonies falling in the list maintained by the NCT of Delhi. It was also argued that the colony falls in the category of “unauthorized affluent colony” and that most of the occupants are not necessarily ex servicemen but are normal buyers. The stand of the Ministry of Urban Development is that the relief sought by the petitioners are same as the 2014 writ petition and therefore the present writ petition is not maintainable. It was also submitted that the colony in question is an unauthorized colony and as per the regulations for regularization of unauthorized colonies, the orders for regularization have to be issued by Govt. of NCT of Delhi who have to also coordinate and supervise the entire process of regularization. According to the Govt, of NCT of Delhi, it was submitted that no person has a vested right to claim regularization and that in cases where any colony is unauthorized or contrary to the sanctioned master plan, such colonies cannot claim regularization as a matter of right. COURT’S RULING On Regularization of Unauthorized Colony The bench while observed the decisions of the High Court in earlier petitions filed in the matter in the years 2002 and 2010 wherein it was held that the petitioners belonged to a different class of person and cannot be termed as “affluent persons”. The bench also took note of the stand of the respondents on earlier occasions, especially the 2003 affidavit filed by the Ministry of Defence saying that a policy decision would be taken for regularizing the colonies; however, the bench noted that nothing was done. The bench while looking at the plight of the veteran officers struggling for their rights in court for years, observed that: “I also cannot help noticing that the petitioners are all retired defence personnel who have devoted the most productive period of their lives defending the nation’s borders and performing other dangerous and difficult tasks normally performed by defence service officers.” Therefore, in view of this, the bench directed the respondents, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Urban Development and NCT of Delhi to convene a meeting of functionaries who can take decision in accordance with the directions of the court. “The said Committee so constituted by the Secretary, respondent No. 1 is requested to take an appropriate decision as spelt out herein as per law expeditiously preferably within four months from today. The decision so taken shall be duly communicated to the petitioners.” The bench held. On Right to Access of Drinking Water and Basic Amenities The Court relied on the case of A.P. Pollution Control Board II vs. Prof.M. V. Nayudu (Retd.) & Ors., (2001) 2 SCC 62 wherein it was held that the right to access to drinking water is fundamental to life and there is a duty on the State under Article 21 to provide clean drinking water to its citizens. It was therefore held that the petitioners cannot be deprived of a 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.” The bench held. In view of this, the Court directed Delhi Jal Board to make an appropriate scheme as per their normal procedure for supply of portable drinking water to the petitioners in accordance with law. The scheme shall be framed and implemented expeditiously preferably within 9 months. Case Name: Delhi Sainik Cooperation Housing Building Society Ltd. v. Union of India & Ors. Date of Judgment: 11.01.2021Click Here To Download Judgment[Read Judgment]Subscribe to LiveLaw, enjoy Ad free version and other unlimited features, just INR 599 Click here to Subscribe. All payment options available.loading….Next Story

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