Sujith Koonan


The evolution of a separate groundwater law in India is a relatively new development. This development marks a shift from the dated common law rule that recognises the uncontrolled right of landowners over groundwater, which perpetuated gross inequity in accessing groundwater by restricting access only to landowners. In this context, framing of new groundwater laws is seen as a key step towards addressing the aggravating problems of depletion and contamination of groundwater along with eliminating inequity in accessing groundwater. Access to groundwater is also directly related to the realisation of the right to water because groundwater is the most important source for drinking and other domestic purposes. Therefore, a legal framework ensuring sustainable use of, and equitable access to, groundwater will have tremendous impact and influence on the effective realisation of the right to water in the Indian context. In this background, this article examines the capacity of the existing and evolving groundwater law in India to ensure equity, sustainability and realisation of the right to water. This article also highlights the gaps in the existing legal framework in this regard and suggests basic principles, norms and approaches that should form the underlying elements of the groundwater legal regime to make it capable of ensuring sustainability, equity and human rights