At the highest, the use of water for Kumbh Mela and for other religious purposes will be covered by the last category, said the Bench
The Bombay High Court has ruled that water requirements for Kumbh Mela to be held at Nashik and other religious purposes will be met only after addressing the priority level laid down in Clause 4 of the Maharashtra State Water Policy.
The court also addressed a host of issues related to water distribution in Maharashtra and Marathwada regions, and the implementation of legislations in this regard.
The court ruled that the state is bound by legislation and cannot release the water from the reservoirs for religious ceremonies or religious objects without the regulatory authority deciding the issue of priority of equitable distribution of water.
As per the Maharashtra State Water Policy, the areas are categorized as per precedence from ‘a’ to ‘e’, starting from (a) domestic use for drinking, cooling, hygiene and sanitation needs, including livestock; (b) industrial, commercial use and agro¬-based industrial use; (c) agriculture and hydropower; (d) environment and recreation uses; (e) all other uses.
In the context, the court stated, “At the highest, the use of water for Kumbh Mela and for other religious purposes will be covered by the last category ‘e’”.
Therefore, according to the policy, if sufficient water cannot be allocated for usage in categories (a) to (d) in that order of preference, there cannot be any allocation of water for Kumbh Mela and other religious purposes.
The court further added that in case of scarcity or hydrological drought, the state is not entitled to release water from reservoir for such purposes without adjudication being made by the Regulatory Authority under Clause (c) of Section 11 of the said Act of 2005.
While adjudicating a group of writ petitions and public interest litigations on issues concerning equitable distribution of water and disputes therein, Justice AS Oka and Justice GS Kulkarni drew a host of conclusions and issued time-bound stipulations to the state.
The issues revolved around water supply to various parts of Western Maharashtra and Marathwada regions.
The issue related to release of water from upstream reservoirs in Godavari river sub-basin for the benefit of downstream Jayakwadi dam was also addressed.
The court made the following important finding and conclusions apart from the issue of water allocation for Kumbh Mela:
The court passed the following orders:
Implementation to be carried out in next two years:
Read the Judgment here.