Mumbai :  The Bombay High Court on Monday passed a final order to provide water to all illegal slums in the city that have come up after 2000. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been asked to come up with a scheme by the end of February 2015 to provide water to all illegal structures in the same way it is providing to the legal ones.

A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice A S Gadkari was hearing a public interest litigation filed by a non-government organization, Niwara Haq. The court submitted, ‘When the corporation can provide water to a building that does not have an occupation certificate, which is an illegal structure, how can it deny water to an illegal slum? There is no connection between the legality of a structure and denial of water?’

The court said, ‘Why have the illegal slums come up in the first place? It is the failure of the municipal authority to take action against them and demolish them. We must note that the state has virtually legalised illegal slums. We want the corporation to take action against them and submit a report on the same in March 2015, failing which action will be taken against any officer who fails to do so.’

The court stated Right to Water is an essential ingredient of Article 21 (Protection of Life) of the Indian Constitution and nobody or agency can deny water supply to its citizens. Article 21 also upholds right to environment, education, medical care and shelter but it does not extend to all illegal and unauthorized body. All concern authorities have the legal obligation to ensure that illegal structures do not come up and if they do, the agencies should demolish them.

The BMC has been asked to come up with a scheme by the end of Feb 2015 to provide water to all illegal structures in the same way it is providing to legal ones

 Justice, at last!

The Pani Haq Samiti, part of the city-based NGO Niwara Haq which had filed this petition, called the judgment a vindication of the slum-dwellers’ right to life. “When you deny a person the right to water, it is a direct blow to their dignity. Water is such a basic necessity that the person instantly becomes vulnerable. These slum-dwellers have been paying at least a thousand rupees every month for what is rightfully theirs. The court has upheld their fundamental right today,” said Sitaram Shelar, the convenor of the NGO.

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