Right to get water part of right to life,says Supreme Court judge

Quoting the famous words from English poet Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,“Water,Water everywhere,nor any drop to drink”....

Written by Tannu Sharma | New Delhi | Published: February 7, 2009 1:10:02 am

Quoting the famous words from English poet Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,“Water,Water everywhere,nor any drop to drink”,a Supreme Court Judge on Friday held that the right to get water is a part of the right to life under the Constitution. He further suggested that the government should encourage scientists to do their “patriotic duty” and take up research to help the country overcome water shortage.

“In my opinion,the right to get water is part of the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution,” noted Justice Markandeya Katju,who also quoted a couplet by Rahim to emphasise his point: “Rahiman paani raakhiye,bin paani sab soon,” which roughly translates as “without water,there’s no life”.

He then “recommended” to the Central Government that it should do its bit by setting up a panel of scientists to solve the water problem. “They should be requested by the government to do their patriotic duty by carrying out scientific research to find ways to resolve the water shortage problem in the country,” he asserted. “There is no dearth of eminent scientists in the field who can solve this problem,but they have not been organised and brought together and have not been requested by the Central and state Governments to solve this problem,nor given the facilities to do so.”

Justice Katju’s observations came in a decision on a petition filed by the state of Orissa,which sought directions to end its dispute with the Andhra Pradesh Government over the construction of a barrage over the Vamsadhara river.

He also mentioned a separate ruling by Justice Altamas Kabir,who had ordered the Union Government to constitute a tribunal under the Inter-State Water Disputes Act,1956,to solve the dispute between the two states,but added that this would not be enough.

“While such tribunals have played a role in resolving such disputes to a certain extent,they have not,and cannot,resolve the water shortage problem permanently,” he said. “In my opinion,it is science which can solve this problem.”

He emphasised that the matter could not be put off any further and that the panel of eminent scientists should be formed immediately to do “research in this area on a war footing.” Or else,there would be “great suffering and social unrest everywhere.”

Justice Katju also offered some pointers to scientists working in the field by suggesting methods of conservation such as converting saline water to fresh water and rainwater harvesting.

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