'Never take us for granted': Supreme Court warns Delhi govt on water scarcity plea [10.6.2024]

The Supreme Court slammed the Delhi government on Monday, criticising its failure to rectify defects in a plea seeking a direction to Haryana to release surplus water provided by Himachal Pradesh to mitigate Delhi’s water crisis.

A vacation bench of Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and Justice Prasanna B Varale expressed displeasure over the petition's defects, emphasising that affidavits are not being accepted due to these errors. The court warned against taking proceedings lightly, adjourning the matter to June 12.

“Why have you not cured the defect? We will dismiss the petition. On the last date also this was pointed out and you did not remove the defect. Don’t take the court proceedings for granted, however important your case may be,” the bench said.

The bench stressed the importance of reviewing the files before the hearing, expressing concern that relying solely on newspaper reports could be misleading. Senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing Haryana, submitted a reply to the state government's response, prompting questions from the court about the timing of the filing.

“Never take us for granted. Filings are not being accepted. You straightaway hand over a series of documents in court and then you say you are suffering a deficit of water and pass an order today itself. You are raising all grounds of urgency and sitting leisurely. Let everything come on record. We will take it the day after tomorrow,” the bench said

Background on the case  

A plea was filed by Delhi’s Water Minister Atishi, seeking immediate and continuous release of water at the Wazirabad barrage, including the surplus provided by Himachal Pradesh. The Centre, BJP-governed Haryana, and Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh were named in the petition.

During a hearing on June 3, the court called for an emergent meeting of the Upper Yamuna River Board on June 5 to address the water scarcity issue. Representatives from the Centre, Delhi, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh agreed to convene the meeting to tackle the crisis.

The UYRB, established in 1995, plays a crucial role in regulating water allocation among beneficiary states and monitoring project progress, including up to the Okhla barrage in Delhi. These beneficiary states encompass Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

The Supreme Court, acknowledging the severe drinking water shortage in Delhi as an “existential problem,” had directed the Himachal Pradesh government to release 137 cusecs of surplus water to the national capital. Additionally, the court urged Haryana to facilitate the flow of this water without politicising the issue.

“Since Himachal Pradesh has no objection and is ready and willing to release the surplus water available with it, we direct that Himachal Pradesh shall release 137 cusecs of surplus water available with it from the upstream so that the water reaches Hathnikund barrage and reaches Delhi through Wazirabad,” the bench had said.

11 Jun 2024