What the rules require

Apex court had framed guidelines a decade ago

October 29, 2019 12:56 am | Updated 12:57 am IST - CHENNAI

In February 2015, the State government framed the Tamil Nadu Municipalities (Regulation of Sinking of Wells and Safety Measures) Rules of 2015 and a similar set of rules for Panchayats in order to implement the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court to prevent borewell mishaps.

The State government mandated that certified borewell drilling operators ensure that they obtain a permit from the officials concerned before commencing the work.

They were required to put up cautionary signboards in a conspicuous manner at the site of the well, displaying the nature, width and depth of the well and the name, address and contact details of the operator as well as the owner of the well. Besides, they must erect barbed wire fencing or any other suitable barrier around the site of the well, and construct a cement or concrete platform measuring 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.6 m around the well casing in such a manner that it is 0.3 m above the ground level and 0.3 m below the ground level. The drilling pit or the well cannot be left uncovered during recess.

After completion of the work, the licensed operators were required to fill up the mud pits and channels around the well and restore the ground to its original condition. Besides, they were to cap the well assembly by welding steel plates or providing a strong cap to the casing pipe with bolts and nuts. There cannot be any deviations from the specifications of the well, as mentioned in the permit.

It has been nearly 10 years since the Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of a spate of incidents of children falling into abandoned borewells and issued guidelines (see graphic) to prevent such incidents from recurring. Yet, the guidelines remain on paper.

Acting upon a letter a citizen wrote to him in February 2009, then Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan took up a suo motu public interest litigation petition regarding the deaths of children in such incidents. On February 11, 2010, a three-judge Bench, comprising the CJI and Justices B.S. Chauhan and C.K. Prasad, laid down certain safety measures to be followed by all State governments.

CJI Balakrishnan retired in May 2010, and a Bench comprising his successor S.H. Kapadia and Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar disposed of the suo motu PIL on August 6, 2010 with some modifications to the guidelines issued earlier.

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