Delhi High Court: Jayant Nath, J., reiterated the consistent position of law that right to access to clean drinking water is a fundamental right.
Petitioners who have filed the instant case are veterans, decorated officers, war-widows and Armed Forces Personnel belonging to all the three wings who were allotted plots in question for residential tenements by respondent 1 pursuant to a scheme by respondent 1 in 1961.
It has been stated that they are legally authorized residents and must be recognized/acknowledged by every respondent. Allotment of plots was by the society formed by the Ministry of Defence which culminated into proper sale deeds registered with the office of sub-registrar.
Further, it was claimed that the petitioners have been paying tax to MCD at urban rates and that subsequently, this was acknowledged as residential in the Master Plan of Delhi 2021.
Petitioners grievance is that despite repeated attempts since last 30 years, MCD has failed to provide a single facility to the petitioners till date under the garb of the petitioners allegedly being unauthorised. It is pleaded that such a stand of the authorities is completely untenable, unjust and illegal.
Harassment faced by War Widows and Disabled/Decorated Ex-Servicemen
It is stressed that ex-servicemen resettled under this very scheme in many other stations in the country are living peacefully since the last 45 years. It is only in Delhi that war-widows and disabled/decorated ex-servicemen resettled under the Government of India mooted scheme have been harassed and denied essential basic amenities of water, electricity, sewer, road, etc. for the last 55 years.
Further, adding to the above agony, petitioners have also stated that the authorities including the local police do not allow the petitioners to repair/build their boundary walls. The petitioners’ colony roads have become a thoroughfare for tens of thousands of people living in adjoining areas. This has also affected the security and the lands are open to encroachment.
First and foremost thing that strikes the Court was that the petition seemed to have completely ignored that the area in question was as per the stipulated regulations for agriculture purposes.
Delhi Jal Board’s affidavit had mentioned that the Defence Services Enclave is an unauthorized colony mentioned in Registration No. 453 in the list of total 1639 unauthorized colonies, which have been identified by Urban Development Department, Govt. of NCT of Delhi.
South Delhi Municipal Corporation also in its counter affidavit has stated that the Defence Services Enclave is an unauthorised colony and SDMC is not carrying out any development work pertaining to it. Similarly, Govt. of NCT of Delhi in its counter-affidavit also states that Defence Service Enclave is an unauthorised colony.
Bench stated that merely because the petitioners were allotted the plots cannot be a ground to insist that the area is for residential purposes.
As per Section 7 of the said Act, DDA has to prepare a Master Plan for Delhi which will indicate the manner in which the land in each zone is proposed to be used. Further, Zonal Development Plans are to be prepared which will indicate the aspects stated in Section 8 of the said Act. As per Section 14 of the said Act, no person shall use any land in a particular zone otherwise than in conformity with the plan.
High Court noted 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.
Bench requested Secretary, the Ministry of Defence/respondent 1 to convene a meeting of functionaries who can take a decision in terms of the directions of Division Bench of this Court in WP (C) 8276 of 2014.
Further, as far as drinking water is concerned, in the counter-affidavit of Delhi Jal Board it was stated that the development work like laying of water pipeline in the area in question could only be executed by the said respondent subject to clearance from the Urban Development Department, GNCTD.
As the colony in the instant case was unauthorised, permission for installation of 4 number tube wells has been given to the RWA and at present, water is being supplied for drinking purposes through the existing tube wells as an interim arrangement. The said arrangement is said to be maintained and regulated by the RWA.
“…an individual has a right to access to drinking water in quantum and quality equal to his basic needs.”
For the above, Court referred to the Supreme Court decision in A.P. Pollution Control Board II v. Prof. M.V. Nayudu, (2001) 2 SCC 62.
“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 citizens.”
Bench held that the petitioners cannot be deprived of a right to access to drinking water merely on the ground that it is an unauthorised colony. Petitioners were residing in the said area for the last 50 years and could not be continuously deprived of the said right to access to drinking and potable water.
Hence Delhi Jal Board is directed to make an appropriate scheme as per their normal procedure for supply of potable drinking water to the petitioners. The scheme shall be framed and implemented preferably within 9 months. [Delhi Sainik Cooperative Housing Building Society Ltd. (Regd.) v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 34, decided on 11-01-2021]
Advocates for the parties:
Petitioners: Dushyant Dave, Senior Advocate with Bahar U. Barqi, Advocate.
Respondents: Maninder Acharya, ASG with Anurag Ahluwalia, CGSC, Abhigyan Siddhant, and Sharuya Jain, Advocates for Union of India/R-1
Naushad Ahmed Khan, ASC(CIVIL), GNCTD
Puja Kalra, Standing Counsel and Virendra Singh, Advocate for SDMC
Ajay Verma, Senior Standing Counsel with Ruchi Chopra, Advocate for DDA.
Puja Kalra, Advocate for SDMC.
Sumeet Pushkarma, Standing Counsel with Devanshu Lohiya, Advocate for Delhi Jal Board and L.L. Meena (E.E.)