TAMIL NADU

Provision for disconnecting water supply illegal: plea in HC

CHENNAI AUG. 26. The VOICE Consumer Care Council has petitioned the Madras High Court against certain penal provisions contained in Ordinance IV of 2003, making installation of rainwater harvesting structures in all houses mandatory, and the short notice to meet the deadline.

Stating that he had no grievance against the RWH scheme as such, the founder-trustee, senior counsel K.M. Vijayan, said the petition opposed only the "manner in which it is sought to be achieved".

He described subsection (3) and (4) of Section 255(A) as an "anti-consumer portion" and said the provision for disconnecting water supply to the building, which failed to instal the facility by August 31, was bad in law as "the right to air, water and electricity was an inalienable private right of citizens".

The stringent measures would only help traders and contractors "make unjust enrichment", Mr. Vijayan said and added that while implementing a scheme, the Government should protect the interests of the law-abiding public.

The Ordinance created "an artificial demand for material and labour" in Chennai, where PVC pipes, sold at Rs. 25 per metre earlier, were quoted at Rs. 70 now. The cost of sand, brick and masonry had also increased three-fold, he said.

More than 40 per cent of the public land and roads in Chennai were vested with the Corporation, and wanted the Government to come out with a rainwater harvest scheme for the local body. "The Government also should take measures to ban multistoreyed buildings beyond certain levels for effective utilisation of limited source of rainwater," he added.

As maintenance of water supply and sewerage services had been vested with a separate Board, the Corporation ceased to have any say in the matter and hence the threat of water supply disconnection was beyond its jurisdiction. "There is no jurisdiction for the local body to encroach upon the powers transferred to the Water and Sewerage Board under Act 28 of 1978. To that extent, the Ordinance is inconsistent with the 1978 Act," he said.

Besides seeking the declaration of the penal provisions of the Ordinance as illegal and unconstitutional, Mr. Vijayan prayed for an interim injunction restraining the Government and its men and agents from disconnecting water supply under the impugned provisions.

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