New Delhi: The AAP government's policy of providing 20 kilo litres of free water across the board for domestic use today came in for criticism from the Delhi High Court, which said "nothing should be given free" except for where it is really needed.
"Nothing should be given free to nobody. Charge 10 paise or one paisa. Nothing should be given free, except where people really need it like the poor," a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said.
The observations came after the court's attention was drawn to this fact by senior advocate and amicus curiae Rakesh Khanna.
The Delhi government and its Jal Board (DJB), represented by senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, defended the policy saying it ensured conservation of water as there was a cap of 20 kilo litres on free usage.
The bench, however, said there were people who have illegally built several floors above the sanctioned limit. Such individuals were also getting the benefit of free water when they can afford to pay for it.
It could be understood if the relief was only being granted to people living in the slum clusters, the court said.
It also asked DJB if there was any policy to regulate ground water usage as private companies have been draining the water table of the national capital.
The DJB said such policies are there and assured the bench that it will place it on the next date of hearing on July 23.
Meanwhile, the state of Haryana told the court that it has encashed the cheques for Rs 28.16 crore given to it by DJB for repairing the Delhi Sub Branch Canal (DSBC) which also carries water to the national capital, besides the Munak canal.
Haryana said it has floated tenders for the repairs which would be opened in June and the work is expected to be completed in four months thereafter.
The court had on May 10 pulled up the Haryana government for not issuing any tender for repairing the old sub-branch canal, despite payment of Rs 28.16 crore to it by the DJB for the work. The court was also displeased with the fact that Haryana had till then not encashed the cheques for the amount though they were sent in March.
The high court on March 13 had directed Haryana and Delhi to take steps to immediately carry out the repairs of DSBC, saying any delay in commencing the work would lead to wastage of water which would be really needed by the national capital.
The court was hearing a PIL moved by advocate SB Tripathi who has said that the population in Delhi was increasing each day but the raw water available was the same or even decreasing.
Mr Tripathi has also filed an application for concrete lining of DSBC, similar to the Munak canal, claiming that due to seepage in the older canal, 50 per cent of the 330 cusec water released into it by Haryana is lost. The plea has claimed that the wastage can be brought down to 5 per cent by concrete lining.
The bench had earlier asked the Haryana government to ensure it releases the entire quantity of water required as per the undertaking given to the court.
Haryana has to release 719 cusecs of water per day into Munak canal and 330 cusecs per day in DSBC, according to the undertaking and earlier court orders.