Chhattisgarh HC passes orders in PIL concerning Hepatitis E-virus epidemic caused by water contamination


Mukesh Kumar Dewangan Vs. State of Chhattisgarh & Others, WPPIL no.30/2014, Hon’ble High Court of Chhattisgarh Synopsis- This public interest litigation was filed by the Petitioner, after his 26-year-old wife died due to consuming contaminated water. The consumption of contaminated water led to her being infected by Hepatitis-E virus. This writ petition raises certain issues relating to potable water deficiencies and pollution of drinking water provided by the State government through its department concerned. Water is a gift of nature to the mankind. The quality of water needs to be maintained in its purest form to ensure prevention of water-borne diseases. With the passage of time, the sewerage lines and water supply lines would have apparently developed wear and tear to such an extent that there could be mixing of material passing through those lines at least to some extent. There is the deficiency in the maintenance of the sewerage lines. An epidemic of Hepatitis-E has broken out in certain areas in Raipur, Durg, Bilaspur, Janjgir districts, and about 50 people have died due to it and thousands have been infected and continue to battle with the deadly disease. Status- The State of Chhattisgarh, the Department of Public Health & Engineering provides the basic infrastructure to ensure distribution of clean potable water to the citizens. Thereafter, in the Municipal areas, the Municipal Corporation/Council takes control of distribution of the water. A direction was given to the Principal Secretary, PHE, Government of Chhattisgarh, to file an affidavit before this Court within a period of eight weeks. In the affidavit, it shall be clearly stated as to which of the Municipal Corporation/Council have water treatment plants to ensure that water is properly treated. It shall also be stated as to who is maintaining those water treatment plants and who is the authority to ensure that the water treatment plant is functioning properly. In the affidavit, it shall also be clearly mentioned as to whether the water is tested before it enters the water treatment plant and whether it is tested after treatment is done in the plant. The frequency of such tests shall also be clearly mentioned in the aforesaid table. Thereafter, the Principal Secretary, PHE shall also give information as to whether the testing is being done on the regular or random basis at the level of the end user to ensure that the end user gets clean potable water. It was also directed to all the Municipal Corporations/Councils in the State of Chhattisgarh to ensure that with effect from 1st of October, 2016, water is regularly tested. The inward supply of every water treatment plant shall be tested twice a day and similarly, the water after treatment shall be tested at least twice a day. It was also directed that the Municipal Corporation/Council shall ensure that water from at least one house/public tap in different localities is tested every day in the month of October, 2016 and the Municipal Corporation/Council shall give details of the said tests done in a tabular form latest by 15th of November, 2016. It was also directed by the Hon’ble High Court that wide publicity be given to this order and if any concerned citizen or organization wants to get these tests done through an accredited laboratory, the same can be got done from it and any such citizen or organization can approach this Court with the results of such tests. Background- That, an Hepatitis-E Epidemic has broken out in several areas in the state due to a breakdown in the water supply and sewage system. As per the media reports, about 50 people have died and hundreds have infected. The petitioner lives in a locality in Raipur where the epidemic first broke out and he lost his six- month pregnant wife to the deadly disease. The petitioner spent approximately 3.5 lakhs on his wife’s treatment, miscellaneous and funeral expenses. His wife has died leaving behind a 4 year old son. Hepatitis-E is a disease caused by hepatitis- E virus, which spreads through the fecal-oral route. It is the absolute breakdown of the sewage and water supply system in the state of Chhattisgarh that has led to the spread of the epidemic and caused such large human loss and damage. Respondents- 1. State of Chhattisgarh through its Chief Secretary- Reply filed and water test reports too have been filed. 2. Secretary, Department of Health & Family welfare- water test reports have been filed. 3. Secretary, Department of Public Health Engineering- water test reports filed 4. Secretary, Department of Water Resources- No reply filed. List of dates and events- April 2014: Hepatitis-E outbreaks in Raipur and Durg. 26th April,2014: First two deaths reported in Raipur. May 2014: Hepatitis- E deaths and cases reported in Bilaspur,Janjgir, Jashpur and Sarguja. 25th June, 2014: 50 deaths have taken place across the state.