Charge one paisa or 10 paisa, but nothing should be given free of cost, the Delhi High Court said Thursday while criticising the Delhi government’s free water scheme of 20,000 litres to every household in the capital. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said the benefit has been extended for people who have illegally built several floors above the sanctioned limit in the city.
“It should not have been free for such rich people, who can afford to pay at least for water, which is basic need of every household. It could be understood if the relief was granted to people living in slums,” the bench said, adding that “nothing should be free to anybody”.
“Charge one paise or ten paisa, but don’t give free, except where people really need it,” the bench said, adding that “in a city like Delhi, it should not”. After coming to power in February 2015, the AAP government, led by Arvind Kejriwal, announced a scheme of 20,000 litres of free water to every household in the capital.
The bench’s oral observations were made after the court’s attention was drawn to this fact during hearing of a PIL by advocate S B Tripathi. He said the population in the capital was increasing each day but the raw water available was the same or even decreasing.
The Delhi Jal Board (DJB), represented by senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, defended the policy, saying it ensured conservation of water as there was a cap of 20,000 litres on free usage. To this, the bench asked the DJB if there was any policy to regulate ground water usage as private companies have been draining the water table in the capital.
Krishnan said such policies are there, and assured the bench that it will place it on the next date of hearing on July 23. Meanwhile, the Haryana government told the court that it has encashed cheques for Rs 28.16 crore given by the DJB for repairing the Delhi Sub Branch Canal (DSBC), which also carries water to Delhi, besides the Munak canal.
Haryana said it has floated tenders for repairing the sub-branch, which would be opened in June. The work is expected to be completed in four months thereafter. Repairs are being carried out after Tripathi urged the court for concrete lining of DSBC, similar to the Munak canal. He claimed that due to seepage in the older canal, 50% of the 330 cusecs of water released into it by Haryana is lost.