Bombay Hc asks Maharashtra to Draw up policy on water for illegal slums

MUMBAI: Upholding their right to water, the Bombay high court on Monday directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to formulate a policy by the end of February 2015 to provide supply in some form to persons occupying illegal hutments erected after January 1, 2000, the cut-off date for regularised slums here.A division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and A S Gadkari granted interim relief, in a PIL by Pani Haq Samiti, challenging a March 1996 government circular directing the local authorities to ensure water would not be provided to unauthorised constructions/structures. The NGO contended that water was integral to Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution, and that no state agency or instrumentality could deny water supply to a citizen who occupies illegal hutments after January 1, 2000.The judges said Right to Life included right to food and water, and the “state cannot deny water to a citizen as he is residing in a structure illegally”. The bench said even if water was provided to a person who occupied an illegal structure, it did not create equity in his favour and did not affect the illegal nature of the structure. They noted that even electricity was being provided to illegal slums. The bench said neither the state nor the BMC had disputed that many slums had come up after January 1, 2000, despite the policy to deny them water.It observed that a person staying in an illegal structure or slum “cannot claim right on par with a law-abiding citizen who has constructed his house after obtaining permission or occupying an authorised construction”. The BMC was directed to “provide for payment at higher rates as those given to authorised premises” and that “water supply would not be necessarily by providing water lines to individual hutments or colonies”.

The court rapped the authorities for their failure to prevent illegal structures in Mumbai and to take action against them, saying they were under obligation to ensure they do not come up, and if they do, to expeditiously demolish them. The judges said the issue of Mumbai slums was “very complicated”, and the state government had regularised illegal slums in 1995 and 2000. “Hope is given to persons occupying illegal slums by regularising hutments by policy decisions. Perhaps that may be a reason people occupy illegal hutments with the hope that the state government will come up with a third policy decision,” they added.

Slums post-1995 must go: Sena

The Shiv Sena will stick to it stand of opposing illegal slums and providing water to them. After the Bombay high court directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corpration (BMC) to evolve a policy to provide water in some form to residents occupying illegal slums erected after January 1, 2000.

Shailesh Phanse, Sena leader and chairman of the civic standing committee, said their stand about illegal slums was unchanged. “All slums post-1995 should go. They are illegal,” said Phanse.

He said residents from illegal slums can buy limited buckets of water for drinking and other purpose. “If they are buying a bucket of water at Rs10, later they will get 1,000 litres at less than Rs10, which they will use carelessly,” Phanse said.