The Madras High Court has directed authorities concerned not to extend the government welfare schemes such as agriculture loan and subsidy for seeds and fertilizers to persons who illegally tap water.
Besides this, the authorities should take steps to disconnect power supply and initiate criminal action against the illegal water extractors, Justice S M Subramaniam said.
The judge gave the directives while disposing of a writ petition from K Paramasivam, former chairman of the Parambikulam-Aliyar Project and Thirumoorthi Reservoir Project Committee, last week.
The petitions sought to quash the orders passed in 2014 and 2015, allowing two private individuals to extract water from Aliyar Basin Division Canal. The petitioner alleged large-scale illegalities in granting the permissions to them for extracting water for irrigation and other purposes. Water theft in the locality was continuing unchecked for over 30 years, the petitioner further contended.
The judge noted that in spite of several actions, the authorities were unable to control the theft of water. No doubt, the authorities of Water Resource Organisation were also facing practical difficulties and they lacked co-ordination from other government departments such as Revenue, Police, TNEB and Agriculture.
“Thus, it is necessary for this court to consider the serious repercussions involved in distribution of water for Irrigation and other purposes. Merely issuing certain directions was unworkable considering the longevity of illegalities in that locality. Consistent and effective monitoring is highly warranted,” the judge said.
The culprits were inventing new ways and means for stealing water and were escaping from the clutches of law. The authorities should also invent new methods to catch the offenders. Corrupt activities, collusion of public authorities either actively or passively, could be overruled. Once the government officials were found in colluding with the violators, they should be prosecuted for the offence of abetment under the IPC along with the offenders of the commission of theft, the judge said.
The state government was all along fighting hard with the neighbouring states to get equal distribution of water. Tribunals were constituted for proportionate distribution of water. Ironically, the government departments within were unable to protect the theft of water by the culprits.
“Vibrant democracy of our great nation under the Constitution can be achieved only if law abiding citizens and their rights under the Constitution are protected. Lawlessness is anti-democratic and thus in the name of democracy or taking cover under democracy or rights, lawlessness at no circumstances can be tolerated. No right under the Constitution is absolute, but subject to restrictions,” the judge said and gave the directions to the authorities concerned in PWD, Water Resource Organisations, besides Collectors and SPs of Coimbatore and Tiruppur districts and the Tahsildars.