Journal Articles

The Evolution of the Right to Water in India

Namita Wahi


January 28, 2022

Water is indispensable to human life. From references to water in numerous international treaties to ultimately, the adoption of United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly resolutions emphasising separate recognition of the “right to water” in 2010, we now have a freestanding human right to water. In this paper, I review the constitutional and legal framework underlying the right to water in India, and present a comprehensive analysis of judicial decisions that have enforced this right, based on insights from two original datasets. The first dataset is a compilation of all water laws, and the second is a compilation of all High Court and Supreme Court judicial decisions on the right to water. My review of the articulation of the “right to water” in India shows that this articulation has occurred largely oblivious of the international human rights movement on water. Apart from the mainstream articulation of the “right to water”, I also describe specific articulation of the right by two marginalised groups, namely Dalits and Adivasis. In so doing, I show how the articulation of the “right to water” has strengthened the claims of the former, but not those of the latter group.

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