A division bench of Delhi High Court was disquieted over lack of free drinking water and toilets at metro stations and directed the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to place before it the reasons for adopting such a policy for the past 14 years.
A bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice AK Chawla expressed its displeasure at the DMRC’s “no free water/ toilet facilities” policy while wondering where would a commuter go in case of a medical problem.
The bench was hearing an appeal by Kush Kalra through advocate Kush Sharma against the single judge order of August 21, 2017 wherein the court had dismissed his petition for clean drinking water, dustbins and proper sanitation facilities etc for commuters of Delhi Metro.
The single judge had said, “Although, it may be necessary to provide the facility of drinking water, the petitioner has no right to insist that such facilities be provided free of cost”.
“…it is not material whether the water is available inside the metro station or immediately outside the metro station; so long as drinking water is available conveniently in and around the station, the petitioner can have no grievance,” the single judge had observed.
On free toilet facilities, the DMRC had told the single judge that commuters can use staff toilets for free even as the petitioners said providing proper toilets was the duty of DMRC.
During the hearing on appeal against this order, advocate Kush Sharma told the division bench that the single judge failed to appreciate that “the DMRC has adopted the practice of treating water as an economic good”.
He also contended that the single judge failed to consider the fact that many metro stations do not even have toilet facilities which is a major cause of concern, especially for women travellers.
“The Single Judge erroneously held that it is not material whether water is available inside the metro station or immediately outside since the commuters can’t be expected to go outside the Metro station for clean and free drinking water. The Single Judge abdicated from performing its constitutional duty by not directing the DMRC to ensure availability and accessibility to free and clean water in so far as he refused to pass directions observing that DMRC is taking the necessary steps for providing clean drinking water at all the metro stations,” said Sharma.
He also told the division bench that other metros such as Chennai Metro Rail Ltd, Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation and the one in Lucknow have free drinking water and toilet facilities.
The bench then sought DMRC’s response by May 9 while also directing it to produce documents showing its policy against free drinking water and toilet facilities for commuters.
It is to be noted that the DMRC had submitted before the single judge that 128 kiosks for water are currently functional, where commuters can purchase water. In addition, there are 200 other built up shops which, apart from catering to other items, also provide packaged drinking water.
It had also submitted that there are 35 stations where facility of clean drinking water (through PI-LO movable units) is provided. At such outlets, RO filtered water is provided at the price of ₹2 for 250 ml and ₹5 for 1 l.
Advocate Sharma, however, argued that the DMRC has deviated from its own policy of free drinking water.