Delhi Water Supply & Sewage Disposal
Undertaking & Anr Vs. State of Haryana & Ors  INSC 348 (29 February 1996)
Singh (J) Kuldip Singh (J) Hansaria B.L. (J)
1996 SCC (2) 572 JT 1996 (6) 107 1996 SCALE (2)SP75
O R D E
is a gift of nature. Human hand cannot be permitted to convert this bounty into
a curse, an oppression. The primary use to which the water is put being
drinking, it would be mocking the nature to force the people who live on the
bank of a river to remain thirsty, whereas others incidentally placed in an
advantageous position are allowed to use the water for non-drinking purposes. A
river has to flow through some territory; and it would be travesty of justice
if the upper-riparian States were to use its water for purposes like
irrigation, denying the lower riparian States the benefit of using the water
even for quenching the thirst of its residents.
plight of residents of Delhi in not getting sufficient water even for drinking,
led Commodore S.D. Sinha to approach this Court under Article 52 of the
Constitution by filing a public interest petition, which came to be registered
as Writ Petition (C) No.537 of 1992 seeking, inter alia, a direction to the
concerned Governments to maintain regular low of water, in Jamuna river so that
the residents of Delhi do not face problem of drinking water, which, however,
was being so faced because of non-release of sufficient quantity of water from Tajewala
Head. As intricate questions of law were found to be involved, on the
suggestion of the court, Commodore Sinha agreed to have the guidance and
assistance of senior lawyer through the Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee.
is this which found Senior Advocate, Shri K.K.Venugopal before us. The learned
counsel took pains to bring to our notice by referring to some decisions of the
American Court, as well as to some writings, that
drinking is the most beneficial use of water and this need is so paramount that
it cannot be made subservient to any other use of water, like irrigation. So,
the right to use of water for domestic purpose would prevail over other needs.
It is because of this that it was contended that what has been stated in
Article 262 of the Constitution dealing with adjudication of disputes relating
to waters of inter-State river or river valleys, read with Inter-State Water
Disputes Act, 1956, could not exclude the jurisdiction of this Court to
entertain the grievance of the petitioner.
Venugopal - in support of his contentions relied upon high authorities of State
of Connecticut vs. Commonwealth of Massachuhetts, 75 Law Ed. 602; American
Jurisprudence, Vol.78, 2d p.293; and C.D. Harris vs. John Brooks, 54 American
Law Reports 2d series p 1440. We found plausibility in the contentions and were
inclined to unfold new jurisprudential arena, despite strong objection to the
same being taken by the State of Haryana, which came to be represented by its Advocate General, Shri H.L. Sibal,
at a later stage. Shri Sibal pleaded in the alternative not to base our
decision on the principle of law advanced by Shri Venugopal, as a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) between U.P., Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and
National Capital Territory of Delhi, regarding allocation of surface flow of Jamuna,
had come to be signed on September
Advocate General urged that we may ask the concerned States to act as per the
said MOU. We found merit in the submission and Shri Venugopal too raised no
objection, and rightly. But,as to act according to the MOU required
deliberation by Upper Jamuna River Board; and as there was some difficulty in
doing so because its membership could not be finalized; and as the summer
months were fast approaching, a need was felt by us to give appropriate
direction to take care of the hardship likely to be faced during those months.
This led us to pass order dated March 31, 1995. The operative part reads as below:
hearing the representatives of all the States concerned and the Union of India
and their learned counsel, we are of the view that the Board having been
legally constituted, the Memorandum of Understanding has become executable
under law. The State of Delhi which is in dire need of water is to be given its
allocation of water with immediate effect. We, therefore, direct all the
parties to the Memorandum of Understanding to assure that sufficient water,
which according to Mr. Mathur is about 2- 1/2 times of the seasonal allocation,
is released from Tajewala Head so that Delhi gets 0.076 B.C.M.* for its
consumption during the period March to June, 1995.
issue special directions to the States of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh through
their Chief Secretaries of the Irrigation Departments to release the water as
directed by us for the consumption of Delhi from Tajewala Head with effect from April 6, 1995. While passing this order, we take
this opportunity to request the respective Chief Ministers of the two States of
Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to direct the concerned officers/officials of their
respective Governments to have our directions regarding supply of water to
Delhi, complied with.
*It is this guantity of water, Delhi has to get under the MOU, between March to
make it clear that this order is as an interim measure till the time the
members of the Board and the Review Committee are appointed and they become
functional. As soon as the Board becomes functional, it will be at liberty to
pass any direction in the light of this order as they deem fit and in
accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding in the interest of all the
States which are signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding.
this writ petition and I.A. No.6 be listed on May 5, 1995 at 2.00 p.m. to
review the situation arising out of our order".
averment in these two contempt petitions, one of which is by the Delhi Water
Supply and Sewage Disposal Undertaking inf the other by Commodore Sinha, is
that the aforesaid order was willfully violated by the contemners.
grievance being common, they were heard together and are being disposed of by
this common order.
contemners agree that no water at all was released pursuant to the above order.
Their shocking stand is that under the MOU, Delhi was not to get any extra
water beyond what it was getting before March 31, 1995. We are piqued at this
statement inasmuch as the order of 13th March would then case to have any
meaning an exercise in futility. Shri Jaitley appearing for the Water Supply
Undertaking would not agree to this stand. The learned Solicitor General, who
was requested to assist us in these proceedings, ultimately stated that the
stand of Haryana way not be correct, though the learned Solicitor was initially
of the view that perhaps under the MOU Delhi was not entitled to any extra
the stand of Haryana regarding the MOU, as advanced in these proceedings by the
learned Advocate General, be correct, we have no doubt that the State had
mislead the Court when the order of 31st March was passed. It thwarted the
passing of an appropriate order which we would have passed but for the
understanding given to us on March 31, 1995
by Haryana. With summer months ahead, we would have called upon Haryana to
allow the required quantity of water to pass through the Tajewala Head as we
would have thought necessary. The volte-face by Haryana has undoubtedly to be
viewed seriously and it deserves to be disapproved strongly.
would have indeed found the concerned persons guilty of contempt for misleading
the Court and preventing it from passing such order as thought just and proper
by it, inasmuch as the course of administration of justice definitely got
deflected because of the twists in the stand of the State.
Despite the aforesaid being the position, we are refraining from using our
contempt jurisdiction inasmuch as the learned Advocate General has assured that
Haryana would see that Delhi gets as much of water which it is
presently receiving through-Jamuna, if so directed by us. It is because of this
statement that Shri Jaitley submitted that the Water Supply Undertaking is not
keen to pursue the contempt proceeding. Commodore Sinha too has taken the same
stand. It is this gesture, along with the statement made by the learned
Advocate-General, which has led us to close this proceeding, despite the highly
objectionable conduct of the concerned persons.
far as water supply from river Jamuna to Delhi is concerned, we order and
direct that Delhi shall continue to get as much water for domestic use from Haryana
through river Jamuna which can be consumed and filled in the two water
reservoirs and treatment plants at Wazirabad and Hyderpur. Both the Wazirabad
and Hyderpur reservoirs shall remain full to their capacity from the water
supplied by Haryana through river Jamuna. We direct the State of Haryana
through all its officers who are party to these proceedings and who have filed
affidavits before us not to obstruct the supply of water to Delhi as directed
by us at any time. This order of ours is not dependent on the MOU mentioned
above or any other proceedings which may be initiated under any other law
between the parties.
We, therefore, close the proceeding by requiring Haryana to make available the
aforesaid quantity of water to Delhi throughout the year. Let it be made clear
that any violation of this direction would be viewed seriously and the guilty
persons would be dealt with appropriately. This order of ours would bind, not
only the parties to this proceeding, but also the Upper Jamuna River Board.