Be ready, we will send your officer straight to jail… Why did the Supreme Court reprimand Himachal and Delhi governments on water

Ananya Shroff
7 Min Read

New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Wednesday reprimanded the Delhi government for wasting water and not curbing the tanker mafia. The court even said that if the Delhi government is unable to rein in the tanker mafia, we will deploy Delhi Police. The Supreme Court asked that if water is coming from Himachal, then where is it going in Delhi. On not giving clear information on the issue of releasing additional water from Himachal Pradesh to Delhi, the Supreme Court gave a strict warning and said, 'Be ready, we will send your officer directly to jail.' The court has asked the concerned officer to appear in court on Thursday. The Supreme Court has asked the Delhi government to file an affidavit by Thursday and tell what steps it has taken to stop the wastage of water. The vacation bench of Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and Justice Prasanna B Varale directed the Delhi government to file an affidavit and tell what steps it has taken to stop the wastage of water. The bench also expressed displeasure at the Himachal Pradesh government, which had said in a letter that the 132 cusecs of additional water that the state wanted to release to Delhi was “already flowing uninterrupted”. The court wondered what was the point of the state’s earlier claim that how much excess water had been released could be ascertained by measuring the excess water at the barrages.

Justice Mishra asked, 'Himachal submitted before this court that we have excess water. And now the letter says that the water we have has already been released, which means they have no excess water. The whole basis of your (Delhi government) petition is that Himachal has excess water, 137 cusecs. Then if you are already releasing it, why was it not informed in the meeting of the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) on June 5 as per our order? The board was never informed about it… On the contrary, the next day when the documents were produced, your additional solicitor general said that this document has also been produced before the board… Why are false statements being made in the court?' He said, 'I remember very well that on that day (last hearing) I had some doubts in my mind and I recorded the name of the concerned officer who submitted the information (on availability of excess water) to the additional solicitor general (for Himachal).' Justice Mishra directed the officer to appear in court on Thursday and said, “Be ready. We will send your officer directly to jail.” He asked the Delhi government, “Water is coming from Himachal…where is it going in Delhi?”

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The bench said that if the same water can be delivered through tankers, then why can't it be given through pipelines. If there can be strict laws to stop electricity theft, then why can't there be laws to stop wastage of water. The bench said, “If water is coming from Himachal Pradesh, then where is it going in Delhi? So much theft is happening here, tanker mafia is working. Have you taken any action against them? If you are not taking any action, then we will hand over this matter to Delhi Police. People are upset. The same water is coming from the tanker but there is no water in the pipeline.” The court orally said, “We are seeing pictures on every channel that tanker mafia is working in Delhi. What measures have you taken in this regard? The affidavit shows that these cases have also come up in 2018, 2019 and 2021. Every time this court says that we cannot do this, this work should be done by Yamuna Jal Board (Upper Yamuna River Board-UYRB).”

The bench said, “If this problem is recurring then what measures have you taken to stop the wastage of water coming from both the barrages? Please tell us what action have you taken against the tanker mafia or whether any FIR has been lodged.”

Advocate Shadan Farasat, appearing for the Delhi government, tried to allay the court's concern by saying that action has been taken to prevent wastage of water, including cutting off supply at places where it is not urgently required. He said water tankers are being provided by the Delhi Jal Board. “As far as the police is concerned, we will be happy if the police take action in this matter (to curb water mafia),” he said. Farasat said the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) is also “using tankers” and “most of the visuals that are coming are of water being supplied by DJB tankers to various places of people and low economic families.”

Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for the Delhi government, cited an order passed by the UYRB in 2018, according to which Delhi should get 1013 cusecs of water. “However, as against 1013 cusecs of water, the water actually received is between 800-900 cusecs,” Singhvi said.

The UYRB had told the court in an affidavit that Himachal Pradesh has to prove that it is giving 137 cusecs of additional water to Delhi as promised. Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the Haryana government, claimed that false statements are being made. The Yamuna Jal Board is the expert body that decides on the issue of water distribution and now it is trying to reopen it.

The Supreme Court has asked the Delhi government to file an affidavit detailing the steps taken to prevent wastage of water. The Supreme Court is hearing a petition filed by the Delhi government seeking direction to Haryana to release excess water given by Himachal Pradesh to the national capital to deal with the water crisis.

(including input from language)

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