"Hundreds of thousands travel by trains and you are serving them contaminated water. Stop giving contaminated water to passengers. What enhanced services are you providing to increase fares?" a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked.
It directed that the matter be placed before the Railway Board Chairman who shall give a report on the quality of water made available to passengers.
The report be placed before the Ministry of Railways, the court said and listed the matter for further hearing on February 19 next year.
The bench said it wanted that the best and same treatment be given to every citizen.
The bench said the issue assumes importance and deserved greatest attention and that it wanted the railways to examine it and take a decision on its own without the court getting into it.
The court was hearing a plea by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation, which has sought "an independent and preferably court-monitored probe into the neglect of the quality of the drinking water supply and the manipulations in the award of contracts for supply of chlorination plants for past several years".
The lawyers said water being provided on stations and trains was not even being tested for presence of E.coli bacteria.
The NGO has contended that while the Indian Railways, which has an independent water supply system all over the country, is able to keep trains running by meeting the requirement of water for washing and cleaning of trains, tracks and platforms, it is "failing to supply safe and wholesome drinking water to millions of railway passengers and its staff who live in the railway colonies".
It alleged that Indian Railways has "continued to neglect the quality of water supply for so many years" as records which have come to light recently show that water quality has been very unsatisfactory for the past several years.
The plea alleges that "the water treatment infrastructure for disinfection of water by chlorination has almost completely collapsed and level of contamination in the entire supply network from the source to the top is alarming."
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