The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) was once again at the receiving end of the Bombay High Court’s ire on Tuesday for supplying contaminated water to a building at Worli. Two pregnant women, both residents of the building, died last year after drinking the water.
On February 17, the court warned the BMC: “People’s tolerance should not be tested,” the court said. “They should not get dirty water and should not reside in [an] unhygienic environment.”
On Tuesday, rapping the BMC for the delay in lodging a police case, a division bench of Justice PB Majmudar and Justice Amjad Sayed said citizens’ health and hygiene should be the top priority. “All is not well at your [the BMC’s] end,” said Justice Majmudar.
A public interest litigation (PIL) filed was filed last year by Siddharth Khandagale and Rajnish Kamble, pointing out that Vrushali Pawar (26) and Kavita Aitala (23), residents of Panchsheel Cooperative Housing Society, died in April 2010 due to water-borne diseases.
Rakesh Agrawal, representing the petitioners, argued that despite court orders the BMC did not take action against the culprits. He alleged that the building was discriminated against because it was a slum rehabilitation construction. Harmony Tower, a commercial structure built under the same rehabilitation scheme by MY Lokhandwala Shelters, was supplied clean water.
“[Ajmal] Kasab [the lone terrorist captured alive during the November 26, 2008, attacks] was not an Indian citizen. You [the BMC] are. It is your duty to protect citizens,” said Justice Majmudar.
The BMC, on February 24, filed a first information report (FIR) under Section 379 (theft) of the Indian Penal Code against GL Tambe, secretary of Panchsheel.
Unhappy with the section invoked, Justice Majmudar said the offence was nothing less then culpable homicide. “If contaminated water is provided with the knowledge that it could kill somebody, it is culpable homicide,” he said. “We don’t want another Bhopal. Bhopal [residents] were innocent. They didn’t know it [death] was coming through the air. Here, it is in the water. ”
The judges said they would monitor the case till it was taken to its logical conclusion. “If we don’t monitor this, the culprits will go [scot-free]. Four lives have been lost, of which two were unborn,” said Justice Majumdar.
BMC counsel KK Singhvi claimed the FIR was delayed because the police refused to register it.
“This happens only in our country. If the police won’t register a BMC FIR, what will be the condition of ordinary citizens?” said Justice Majmudar.
Rapping the BMC for taking so long to lodge the FIR, the court observed: “If this public interest litigation was not pending, the complaint would never have been filed. This reflects the sorry state of functioning of the municipal corporation.”
Government Pleader DA Nalavade denied that the police refused to lodge an FIR. “The police will act immediately,” he said. The court asked the police officer concerned to inform it of the case status on March 11.