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Water crisis: Supreme Court pulls up Delhi government for inaction against water tanker mafia

Himachal Pradesh government tells the top court that 137 cusec unutilised water was already flowing to Delhi while Delhi government says it has not received any surplus water

Water crisis: Supreme Court pulls up Delhi government for inaction against water tanker mafia

People take water from a tanker amid water crisis at Vivekanand Camp, Chanakyapuri, in New Delhi. PTI



Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, June 12

The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Delhi government for its failure to take any action against the water tanker mafia in the national capital which is facing an acute water crisis during peak summer.

“If you are not taking action, then we will hand it over to Delhi Police to take action against the tanker mafia,” a Bench led by Justice PK Mishra told senior advocate AM Singhvi who represented the Delhi government.

"There is so much spillage…the tanker mafia is there. People are suffering. We are seeing this in all channels. You are not doing anything. It’s a recurring problem every summer. What have you done to prevent water wastage?... Have you taken any action or (filed) FIRs against the tanker mafia? Tanker mafias get water and pipelines are running dry," the Bench said.

Solicitor General Tushar Menta had earlier pointed out that 52.35 per cent of water in Delhi either went waste or was pilfered by the water tanker mafia, leaving just 47.65 per cent water for Delhiites.

The Bench directed the Delhi government to file an affidavit detailing the measures taken by the Delhi Jal Board to check pilferage and wastage of water in the national capital and posted the matter for Thursday.

The Bench was perplexed to see that affidavits in support of the Delhi government’s petition were filed by Delhi Water Minister Atishi and not DJB officials – which was the norm.

Interestingly, the Himachal Pradesh government told the Bench that 137 cusec water was already flowing to Delhi.

“Why didn’t you inform the Upper Yamuna River Board on June 5? Why are false statements being made before this court?... We will straightway send your officer to jail for contempt,” the Bench told Himachal Pradesh Advocate General Anup Kumar Rattan.

As the Himachal Pradesh government said that 137 cusec water was already flowing to Delhi and the NCT government maintained that it did not reach Delhi, the Bench wondered, “if water is coming from Himachal Pradesh then where is the water going in Delhi?”

Rattan said he would explain it to the Bench on Thursday.

Singhvi and advocate Shadan Farasat submitted on behalf of the Delhi government that the tankers were of the Delhi Jal Board. They said the Delhi government would file an affidavit detailing the steps taken to deal with pilferage of water.

Represented by senior advocate Shyam Divan and Senior Additional Advocate General Lokesh Sinhal, the Haryana government said there was no unutilised water available with Himachal Pradesh and that the court was being misled.

The Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) has told the Bench that “complete information for ascertaining the utilisation (of water) by HP has not been supplied. The Board said Himachal Pradesh was required to provide details such as location, latitude and longitude of withdrawal point, authorised/approved discharge of scheme of that particular withdrawal point, water utilised by HP and surplus water released for Delhi.

“Himachal Pradesh needs to submit the details…to ascertain their utilised share (of water) in the absence of which the Board is not in a position to estimate the unutilised share of the state of HP which they want to share with NCT of Delhi and pass through the state of Haryana,” the UYRB said.

The Supreme Court had on Monday taken strong exception to the Delhi government's failure to remove certain defects in its petition seeking a direction to the Haryana government to release surplus water provided by Himachal Pradesh to deal with the water crisis in the national capital.

"You cannot take this court for a ride. Let the office (Supreme Court Registry) verify that you removed the defects and if you did not, then let the petition be dismissed… It will be dismissed," the Bench had told Singhvi.

"Defects were pointed out last week and still defects are not removed. Mr Singhvi will not remove the defects…" it had said after Divan pointed out that the state was unable to upload its documents as defects in the Delhi government’s petition had not been removed.

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