Probe legality of water release for Kumbh 'shahi snan': High Court

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed Maharashtra government to probe the legality of a decision taken by the authorities to release water from Gangapur dam for 'shahi snan' (royal bath) at the Kumbh Mela in Nashik this year.

Giving the directions to the state's Chief Secretary, a division bench of Justices A S Oka and V L Achiliya said the decision to release one TMC (thousand million cubic) water from the dam was contrary to a policy of the government which categorises its priority list as regards supply of water.

As per the policy, supply of water for drinking purposes comes first and supply for such 'shahi snaan' comes in the last at fourth category.

The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by H M Desarda, a professor from Pune, seeking quashing of the state government's decision to release one TMC water for every 'shahi snaan', saying the state was reeling under a drought-like situation.

The court was earlier told that for the royal bath on September 13, the government released two TMC water from the Gangapur dam.

The bench had then restrained the government from releasing the water from the Gangapur dam henceforth for the purpose of 'shahi snan'. The court was today told that the water was still released for the last royal bath held on September 25.

The government clarified that water had to be released to flush out the dirty water after the royal bath was over. "We had on the first hearing held that the government's decision to release water was prima facie illegal and contrary to its policy. We direct the Chief Secretary to hold an inquiry to ascertain the legality of the government's decision. The findings of the inquiry shall be submitted to us on December 22," the court said today.

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