This article is written by “Ritika sharma” from “Ansal University”. This article is curated by Himansu Raj of CNLU PATNA


Water is one of the most important substances available for survival on earth. All living creatures, being it humans, animals or plants all need water for their survival. Other than drinking, water is also used in many other day to day activities. Even though two-third part of earth is covered with water, many countries faces water crisis. If there is no water, there is no life. Hence, denial of water will result in denial of life. 

The right to water is not contained in Indian constitution as a fundamental right. But the Indian judiciary in many cases has interpreted article 21 of Indian constitution and has included the right to clean and adequate water to both humans and animals, under article 21.  

Indian constitution and provision related to clean drinking water

The fundamental rights contained in part III of the Indian constitution came into force in 1950. It includes right to equality, right to freedom, right to life, right to education, right against exploitation, cultural rights as well as rights to constitutional remedies. But right to water is not explicitly mentioned in either fundamental right or in directive principles of state policy (DPSP).

Article 21 of Indian constitution states that no person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. This article is popularly known as an article on right to life. Article 21 is the collection of different types of rights, considering this article in a wider sense, environmental, ecological, water, and air pollution etc. gets violated under this article. So, safe and clean drinking water (potable water) to citizens is a part of article 21.

Judicial interpretation towards right to water

Right to clean water is immensely developed through judicial interpretation. In Shubhash kumar v. state of Bihar, a wide interpretation to article 32 was given. article 32 is designed for the enforcement of fundamental rights of citizens by our Apex court. If anything endangers or harms the quality of life in derogation of laws, article 32 guarantees a remedy for individuals for removal of pollution from water or air which is affecting the quality of life.

In the case of Hamid khan v. state of Madhya Pradesh, public interest litigation was filed against the government for not taking suitable measures before supplying drinking water from hand- pumps. The hand- pumps sunk by the state government had excessive fluoride content in its water, which was consumed by the many people for drinking, had resulted in great damage to the population of Mandla district. Under article 47 of the constitution, the state is bound to provide safe and clean water for public health.

In M.C. Mehta v. Kamalnath, doctrine of public interest was applied to the case. The Supreme Court held that the state has a responsibility for the supply of water but is also bound to supply safe and healthy water and prevent health hazards.

In Narmada Bachao Andolan v. union of India, Supreme Court upheld the decision of government to build over 3000 dams on Narmada but keeping in view the importance of right to clean drinking water held that “water is the basic need for survival of human beings and is part of right to life under article 21 of constitution of India.” 

Therefore, after analyzing the above judgments it can be seen that Indian judiciary has given notable interpretation. It clearly depicts adequate safe drinking water as a basic right of every citizen.  

Various Enactments 

There are a number of enactments which have been passed with regard to water and water resources. They mainly focus on supply of drinking water, irrigation and many other operations related to water. 

Water (prevention and control of pollution) Act, 1974

This act was established by the Indian parliament with the motive to prevent and curb water pollution. It monitors the agencies which are responsible for surveillance on water pollution. According to section 17 of this act the state water board has power to plan programmes for prevention of pollution of streams and wells, inspect sewage and trade effluents etc.

If you plan to dig a borewell, permission from the department of mines and geology is required.

The environment (protection) act, 1986

In this act the main emphasis is given on the environment, which includes water, air and other resources. It extends to control water pollution and improve water quality. It deals with waste collected on land and other aspects of waste management. This act is also known as umbrella act as it provides the basic framework to the central government to make coordination among various states for the use of acts like water act, air act etc. 

Indian easement act, 1882

Easement means that the owner of a land has certain rights for beneficial enjoyment of that land. For instance, a person who owns land adjacent to a river has the right to unpolluted water. This act states that the riparian owner has the equal rights with other riparian owners for the use of unpolluted water without any hindrance in M.C. Mehta v. union of India, doctrine of riparian rights was revived.


The right to clean and safe drinking water has not been explicitly stated in Indian constitution or any other enactments. In order to live, we need clean drinking water. So right to water can be made part of article 21 which ensures right to life.

After Cape Town was declared as the first dry town, made the whole world think and take measures to control the water crisis. Knowing the significance of water, there was a sudden need to form laws for conserving water. In this regard, Indian judiciary and parliament have made efforts and formed various enactments and laws for preventing water pollution. But at last, it is upon the individual country and its citizens to implement and abide by laws made by them.