The Delhi High Court has confirmed that every individual has a right to access to drinking water of a quantity and quality equal to their basic needs. The Court held that it is a settled legal position that right to access to drinking water is fundamental to life, and the Government has a duty under Article 21 of the Constitution to provide clean drinking water to citizens.
What is Article 21?
Article 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950 guarantees the right to life and personal liberty to every person (citizen or non-citizen). Only proper legal procedure can interfere with and restrict the right to life and personal liberty. Over the years, through judicial interpretation, the meaning of ‘life and personal liberty’ has expanded to include several specific rights. These rights include:
- Right to Dignity
In the Francis Coralie case, the Supreme Court held that the right to life includes the right to live with human dignity, and the bare necessities of life that go along with a life of dignity. These include:
- adequate nutrition
- clothing and shelter
- facilities for reading, writing and expressing oneself in diverse forms
- freely moving about and mingling with fellow human beings
- Right to Livelihood
In the Olga Tellis case, the Supreme Court included the right to livelihood in the right to life because no person can live without the means of living. Depriving someone of their livelihood would strip their life of its content and meaningfulness, and make it impossible to live.
- Right to Enjoy Pollution-Free Air and Water
In the Subhash Kumar case, the Supreme Court held that the fundamental right to life includes the right to enjoy pollution-free water and air. If water or air pollution impairs the quality of life of a citizen, they have the constitutional right to approach the court for removing the pollution.
- Right to Education
In the Mohini Jain case, the Supreme Court held that the right to education flows directly from right to life. The right to life and the dignity of an individual cannot be assured unless it is accompanied by the right to education. The State Government has an obligation to try to provide educational facilities at all levels to citizens.
- Right to Privacy
In the Puttaswamy case, the Supreme Court held that privacy is a constitutionally protected right which emerges primarily from the guarantee of life and personal liberty in Article 21. Privacy includes preserving personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation. The right to privacy is a right to be left alone, and recognises every person’s ability to control vital aspects of their life. Personal choices governing a way of life are a part of privacy.