Chennai: Holding that water, being a national asset, if extracted without any authority of law amounts to “theft” and certainly the persons committing such offence of theft under IPC are liable to be prosecuted, Madras high court has upheld an order of the state government, regulating the extraction of ground water for commercial purposes by commercial establishments.
Justice S.M. Subramaniam upheld the order of regulation issued by PWD dated July 23, 2014 while disposing of a batch of petitions from Shanthi Aqua Farms and 74 others, challenging the order.
Pointing out that water and other natural resources are national assets and the state is the custodian and in possession of all such assets including water, the judge directed the authorities not to grant license, no objection certificate or permission for the commercial establishments/persons to extract ground water for commercial usage in the absence of fixation of water flow meter on the board outlet.
The authorities were directed to inspect the functional quality and other established standards of the flow meters fixed by the persons, who all were applying for permission, NOC, and at the time of granting permission/NOC, the flow meter should be sealed properly by PWD officials. The flow meter must be sealed in such a way to prevent any tampering by any person. Quantum of water to be extracted by individuals, were to be fixed periodically as per the assessment to be made by PWD authorities as per the regulations, the judge added.
The judge also directed the authorities to measure the quantum of water extracted by taking meter reading every month. The authorities were directed to follow all other terms and conditions fixed for grant of license/permission for extraction of ground water for commercial usage as per the guidelines issued in the G.O. The authorities were also directed to register the police complaint in the event of identifying any excess extraction of ground water by tampering the flow meters sealed or by any other means by any person. The case must be registered under section 379 of IPC (theft).
In addition, if the water was wasted for causing wrongful loss, then section 425 of IPC (mischief) will also attract, the judge added.
The judge directed the authorities to suspend licenses by issuing show cause notices. If any person was convicted, then he shall be permanently debarred from getting license for extraction of groundwater, the judge added. The judge said all district collectors have been directed to set up committees to monitor the extraction of groundwater by the individuals for commercial purposes....