The Gauhati High Court directed the petitioner authorities to establish a Ground Water Authority in the State of Assam as per the provisions of the Assam Ground Water Control and Regulation Act, 2012.
A division bench of Chief Justice Rashmin Manharbhai Chhaya and Justice Soumitra Saikia dismissed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) raising a very important issue and necessary for a prayer to stop the illegal sale of ground water to private tankers. and prayed for the following assistance:
“The aforesaid institution is, therefore, respectfully prayed that your Lordship may be pleased to grant this petition, call the records and issue an order calling upon the respondents to show cause in writing of the nature
(A) A writ in the nature of Mandamus shall not issue an order ordering the respondent State to stop the illegal sale of underground water in violation of the applicable Rules and Regulations;
(B) A writ in the nature of Mandamus shall not issue an order directing the petitioner authorities to withdraw and/or otherwise restrain private tankers from supplying underground water without a valid permit. the agency or department that has the power to protect health and safety. and the lives of the inhabitants of the entire city of Gauhati;
(C) A writ of Mandamus in nature should not be issued directing the petitioner agencies to take legal action against the illegal dischargers of underground water without legal authority and to take retaliatory bond. to protect life and safety. people.
(D) A writ of Mandamus should be issued directing the respondents to install a safety system at the water check point in Kamrup district (M).
(E) A writ in the nature of Mandamus shall not be issued directing the respondents not to act unlawfully and to pass such other directions as the Hon’ble Court may deem fit and proper in the above facts and the circumstances of the case. For reasons/reasons that may be shown, after hearing the parties and perusing the record, be pleased to make the rule complete and/or pass any other appropriate order or direction your Lordships may deem fit. can be appropriate and appropriate to the facts and circumstances to receive full and complete assistance in all requests.
Pending disposal of the decree, your Lordships may be pleased to issue directions to the respondents not to allow private tankers to pump underground water without the permission of this Honorable Court and/or to pass other orders further as Your Lordship may think fit and proper. “
Various conflicts have arisen, and it is alleged that the underground water is misused for private interests, which will hinder the important renewable resource that is widely distributed. In the notice issued, the respondents who are the concerned respondents, have filed their affidavit-opposition dated 15.03.2021 where inter alia they contend that for regulation, control, management and development of ground water in the State In Assam, the Assam Ground Water Control and Regulation Act, 2012 was enacted. It is also stated that this Act received the approval of the Governor on 14.05.2012 and was published in the Assam Gazette No. 226, Dispur dated 19.05.2012.
It was also agreed that under the said Act the Ground Water Agency of Assam was established with the Secretary to the Government of Assam, Irrigation Department, as the Chairman; Director of Geology and Mines as Member Secretary and Members from various departments. It is also contended by the respondents that as per the 2012 Act the Assam State Ground Water Authority held its first meeting on 17.08.2013 with all stakeholders following another meeting held on 05.07.2014, specifically, making and making and finalizing regulations under the 2012 Act.
It was also argued by the respondents that in view of the 2012 Act, the Central Water Board, North Eastern Province, was ordered not to process any application for issuance of No Objection Certificate (NOC) for withdrawal of ground water from industries. / infrastructure / mining projects etc. However, since no rules have been set, implementation has not been possible. The affidavit-in-opposition further recites the meeting of the Assam State Ground Water Agency, held on 02.06.2016 and 05.06.2018 and also the various measures taken by the authorities in January, 2021.
The affidavit also refers to the Assam State Ground Water Authority meeting held on 03.03.2021, which was subsequent to the filing of this writ petition. The respondents also narrated the various steps taken by the municipal government of Guwahati and it was pointed out that the municipal government of Guwahati, Assam water and sewerage board and also PHE department did not issue any NOC for produce commercial purpose of ground water. The Central Water Board, however, issues permits for groundwater extraction only for infrastructure and industrial purposes. It was also agreed that the following resolutions were issued at the meeting held on 10.03.2021.
“A. The Chief Secretary, Assam directed all the respondent departments in the PIL not to issue any NOC for extraction of groundwater for commercial purpose immediately.
B. The Chief Secretary further instructed the Transport Department and Police to take action against the illegal tankers in Guwahati.
C. The Central Water Board has been directed to submit the list of permissions granted by them to Guwahati city for extraction of ground water. The Irrigation Department, GMC and PHE department will jointly conduct the verification exercise to find out the violation, if any, by the permit holders.
D. All the respondent departments shall submit the copy of the affidavit filed by them in the matter of PIL No. 06/2021 Irrigation Department for better communication.
E. He also suggested the General Secretary of the Irrigation Authority to move to the Legislature and Judiciary Departments to produce the by-laws to be immediately presented to the Honorable Cabinet.”
From the record, the Bench noted that after that, as per the decision taken in that meeting, the Assam Ground Water (Control & Regulation) Rules, 2016 were prepared and sent for approval. The records also indicate that respondent no. 1 and 2 have also filed counter-affidavits dated 17.08.2021 and 24.08.2021, respectively, and have recorded the steps taken by the District Transport Officer, Kamrup (Enforcement), against the illegal use. of water tankers. Similar affidavit dated 02.09.2021 submitted by plaintiff no. 10 and also recounted the steps taken under the provisions of the 2012 Act and the 2016 Draft Rules.
Affidavit dated 01.11.2022, respondent no. 4 and 5, through the Secretary, Government of Assam, Department of Irrigation, brought on record that the Assam Ground Water Control and Regulation Rules, 2022 were notified in the Official Gazette on 18.05.2022 and the rules were properly laid down. before the Legislative Assembly of Assam on 12.09.2022. It is also believed that the Assam State Ground Water Agency is running as per the 2012 Act.
With reference to the aforementioned affidavit of the opposition, which is not disputed by the petitioners, the bench held that the authorities have initiated necessary measures to implement the 2012 law and the regulations that have been made.
Considering the above mentioned issues, the bench observed that the relief prayed for by the petitioners in the petition is rectified. However, the Supreme Court ordered the petitioner authorities to establish the Ground Water Agency of the State of Assam as per the provisions of the Assam Ground Water Control and Regulation Act, 2012 read with the relevant rules and the Assam Ground Water Control Rules. , 2022 as soon as possible. as possible, no later than 31.01.2023.
The respondents are also directed by the high court to implement the provisions of the 2012 Act and the 2022 Rules in its letter and spirit so that no one can use the underground water illegally. Respondents are also instructed to be vigilant and eliminate illegal use of groundwater and, if necessary, to take appropriate measures according to the 2012 law and regulations.