Close illegal drinking water packaging units: HC

The Madras High Court on Thursday directed all 32 Collectors in the State to close down all illegal drinking water packaging units within their jurisdictions before Monday, and file a compliance report before the court on Tuesday.

Justices Vineet Kothari and R. Suresh Kumar ordered that even if a single illegal unit was reported to be functional on Tuesday, the Collector concerned must be present in the court, along with the officer concerned responsible for the delay. “If we come across any non compliance on the next date of hearing, this court shall be constrained to call the Chief Secretary to the Government before this court,” the Bench warned, and expected meticulous and punctual compliance of its orders.

The judges also made it clear that no government department would be allowed to take an excuse that it was not a party to the proceedings and therefore it could not comply with the orders. All government departments are expected to work in tandem, they said.

When it was represented before the court that some of the packaging units had applied for renewal of its licences and those applications were still pending, the judges ordered that a final decision on those applications should be taken before Monday.

The Bench expressed its dismay over the officials not having taken any effective steps despite Justice S.M. Subramaniam of the High Court having passed an order on October 3, 2018, for stringent action against units which draw groundwater illegally and exploit it for commercial gains.

In that order, the single judge had directed the State government officials to lodge police complaints for the offence of theft against packaged drinking water units which draw excess groundwater, than the permitted quantity, by tampering the flow meters.

He had said that even those who waste water must be punished for the offence of causing wrongful loss to the State by booking them under Section 425 of the Indian Penal Code, which declares as mischief any act committed with the intention of causing damage to public property.

The officials were further directed to suspend licenses of units against whom police complaints had been lodged and permanently debar them from obtaining licence for extraction of groundwater if they get convicted in criminal cases. A directive was issued to all Collectors in the State to keep an eye on such units.

Every Collector was also directed to constitute monitoring committees, comprising five individuals, to monitor the extraction of groundwater by individuals for commercial purposes. The committees shall collect proof of illegal extraction of water and lodge complaints with the jurisdictional police stations, the judge had said.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 3:26:29 AM |

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