Data source
Date of text
10 Jul 2001
Seat of court
Original language


Type of text
National - higher court
Reference number
WP 2237/1990
Court name
Supreme Court of Nepal
constitutional law, environmental standard, health, water quality, water quality standard

This case dealt with the questions whether pure drinking water was a matter of right and to what extent the welfare state was responsible for providing pure drinking water to its people. The Petitioner argued that the Nepal Drinking Water Corporation distributed contaminated water, collected fees even from places it did not distribute water to, and that its officials were not accountable. The respondent Corporation contended that it distributed drinkable water after biological testing was done; that efforts to improve the drainage system were going on; and that various measures to prevent leakage had been adopted.
The Court elaborated on the significance of drinking water for maintaining public health. The court did not say explicitly that drinking water was a matter of right, but that providing pure drinking water was a responsibility of the welfare state. It emphasized that there was no question that the Nepal Drinking Water Corporation had a legal obligation to distribute pure and uncontaminated water according to the Water Corporation Act. Pure water was indispensable for lives of all living creatures of nature.
However, the court denied issuance of mandamus to guarantee the right to pure drinking water as demanded by the petitioner. It was of the view that the court could only come to a conclusion about whether or not the distributed water met the WHO standard after collecting and evaluating evidence. To settle questions of fact between litigants by collecting and evaluating evidence was not possible under the ‘writ’ or ‘extraordinary’ jurisdiction of the court. Therefore, the petition was quashed.
Finally, it stressed that Art 25 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990 stated that the chief objective of the state was to protect the lives, property and liberty of the people by promoting their welfare. Despite its constitutional and statutory obligation in this regard, the Corporation seemed reluctant to perform its duties to protect public health. Thus, the court decided to alert the Ministry of Housing and Physical Development to give directions to the Drinking Water Corporation in order to make the Corporation accountable and to make proper arrangements for providing pure drinking water as per its legal obligations.