The Supreme Court of India has ruled that the country’s citizens have a constitutional right to clean water and air, giving state governments six weeks to explain why they should not be held accountable for "failing to discharge their basic duties" and why "liability should not be imposed for such a tort".
The 26 November ruling comes after water samples taken in Delhi had failed quality tests and after a month of unprecedented air pollution when the air quality index has consistently reached more than 10 times higher than the level deemed healthy by the World Health Organization. Delhi has been ranked among the world's most polluted cities.
The court specifically cited the governments of Haryana, Punjab, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh as responsible for Delhi’s continuous smog and claimed that they should provide compensation for the health hazard caused by the water and air conditions.
A 16 November Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) report confirmed that all 11 samples drawn from Delhi did not comply with quality norms and that piped water was not safe for drinking purpose.
The government of India has announced a consultation process to make mandatory compliance of the BIS quality standard for tap water to begin with in the national capital, state capitals and 100 smart cities. Compliance is currently voluntary.