While many refrain from fighting a legal battle against a government department for failing to provide timely service, a woman in Kerala has successfully fought a gruelling legal battle against Kerala Water Authority (KWA), which failed to provide her with water for over a year while still billing her for the non-existent water supply.
Mariamma A K, 52, of Keerthi Nagar, Maradu, won a favourable verdict for compensation of Rs 65,000 from KWA after approaching the Ernakulam District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, explaining the harrowing time she had undergone managing her home without getting a single drop of water from the KWA supply line but paying the water bills on time for over a year.
It was in December 2017 that Mariamma, an associate professor of law, relocated with her family from Kozhikode to Kochi in pursuit of a better life. They bought a house under construction at Pettah in Thripunithura.
With hopes high, the family applied for a water connection and dutifully paid all requisite fees. However, what followed was a nightmare that lasted for more than twelve months as they endured the absence of a basic necessity: water.
For a working woman striving to maintain her household, the absence of running water presented insurmountable challenges, plunging her into a state of distress and despair.
“We had to depend on tanker supply for water. Many times, they failed to deliver water. We couldn’t cook and had to depend on food from hotels. Life was hell without water. We had to depend on our neighbours for a bucket of water. Several of our neighbours helped. But we were shocked when we started getting water bills from KWA without receiving a single drop of water,” Mariamma told “Open Digest.”
Despite relentless efforts and numerous appeals to the KWA, her pleas for water supply fell on deaf ears. To compound her anguish, the KWA shockingly issued exorbitant bills for the months during which she had not received a single drop of water. When she inquired with the KWA about the bill, the officials told her that she had signed several documents in which she had agreed to pay the minimum bill amount even if there was no water supply. “That was a shock for us. It’s true that we signed a lot of documents presented by the KWA at the time of applying for a water connection. But we never knew such a clause was there,” she said.
Refusing to be victimised any longer, Mariamma took her fight to the District Consumer Redressal Commission, seeking justice for the egregious negligence and mental torment inflicted upon her and her family. Her case was argued before the Commission by a legal team led by her counsel Advocate George Cherian Karipparambil.
After a protracted legal process, marked by unwavering determination and unwavering resolve, she emerged triumphant as the Commission, led by its president Advocate D B Binu, members V Ramachandran and Sreevidhia T N, ruled in her favour.
The verdict not only vindicated her grievances but also delivered a significant blow to bureaucratic indifference, underscoring the importance of accountability and consumer rights.
The Commission ordered the KWA to compensate the woman for the mental anguish and hardship endured as a result of its failure to fulfil its fundamental obligation. The Commission also observed that the special undertaking obtained by the KWA from the complainant and spouse, expressing their willingness to pay the minimum water charge stipulated by prevailing regulations, even if water is not provided through their connection, was unjust enrichment and an unfair trade practice, especially given their monopoly over water supply in the state of Kerala.