Next time you catch a water-borne disease like jaundice or cholera, you can drag the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) or the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) to the consumer court for supplying poor quality drinking water.
“A consumer has the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, purity of goods including water or services which are rendered by the statutory authorities…so that it is not hazardous to life or health,” the National Consumer Court said.
Quoting from the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Narmada Bachao Andolan case, it said: “Water is one element without which life cannot sustain. Therefore, it is to be regarded as one of the primary duties of the government to ensure availability of water to the people.”
National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission noted that “the right to access to drinking water is fundamental to life and there is a duty on the State under Article 21 of the Constitution to provide clean drinking water to its citizens”.
Holding that consumers have right to get clean drinking water from a civic body, the commission directed the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) to adhere World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines of preventive management framework for safe drinking water in the city.
The order came on a complaint filed by Consumer Education and Research Society and the legal heirs of deceased victims of jaundice, who alleged that the Hepatitis decease was caused due to contaminated drinking water supplied by the AMC.
A Bench of Commission Chairman Justice M.B. Shah and Member Rajyalakshmi Rao directed senior officers of the AMC to visit the water tank and see that it was properly sealed so that “animals are not in a position to enter the tank or pollute the water…”. It also directed the AMC to file a fortnightly testing report of the water supplied from the source and publish in newspapers with zone wise details.
Appreciating the work done by the complainant society, the Commission asked the state government to pay Rs 50,000 as cost of litigation to it.
“Such work for the benefit of the consumer is required to be encouraged,” it added. The Commission, however, refuse to award any “punitive damages” to the complainants as contemplated under Section 14(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act.