Provide water to all slums, Mumbai corporation told

The slums will have to pay for it as per the policy which is to be framed

Upholding the right to access to water as fundamental right, the Bombay High Court on Monday directed the Mumbai municipal corporation to provide water to all slums in the city — irrespective of whether they are legal or illegal.

“The court said that providing water to illegal slums will not mean those slums are legal or regularised,” advocate Mihir Desai who appeared for petitioner Pani Haq Samiti, said.

The court directed the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) to formulate a policy for water supply by February-end.

“If the civic body provides water in buildings not having occupation certificates, then why can’t it do the same to slums?” the Division Bench of Justices Abhay Oka and A.S. Gadkari asked. The Public Interest Litigation will now be heard in March. The petitioners had argued that right to water was a part of right to life, enshrined in the Constitution under Article 21. It cannot be denied to those living in slums which have come up after 2000, the petitioners said.

The slums which came up before 2000 have been regularised by the State. The court upheld the argument.

The slums, which will be provided water, will have to pay for it as per the policy which is to be framed.

The MCGM may also choose to charge higher rates for such connections which may not be individual water connections, the court said.

The corporation can provide drinking water at rates higher than the ones charged for authorised persons, the Bench said.The Bench took into consideration the official information that around 81 police inspectors and 4425 police constables lived in slums. The government information said that many staff of other public sector undertakings too resided in slums.

Pani Haq Samiti, through its PIL, challenged the Government circular of March 3, 1996 and Rule 6.9 & 6.9.1. of the Water Charges Rules of the Municipal Corporation “to the extent that it seeks to deny drinking water to slum structures/occupants which have come up after January 1, 2000.”

The NGO had argued that it was the civic body’s responsibility to provide 45 litres of water per person a day for domestic use. “It is obligation of the State and the local bodies to make arrangement for such amenities in accordance with law,” the petition had stated.

But the MCGM and the State government had opposed the PIL. The government had said that such a move might encourage illegal slums. It also refuted the argument that non-supply of water was unconstitutional. But the court refused to accept these arguments. The MCGM has been directed to file a compliance report by March 2, 2015.

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