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Offences Regarding Natural Resources [Fouling water of public spring or reservoir] (Section 277 of IPC)

The ingredients of Section 277 of the code are:

1) Voluntary corruption or fouling of water;

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2) The water must be of public spring or reservoir; and

3) The water must be rendered less fit for the purpose for which it is ordinarily used.

If a person voluntarily fouls the water of any public spring or reservoir, he shall be punished under Section 277. The water of public spring or reservoir belongs to general public and any person, who fouls it, commits a public nuisance.

To constitute an offence under Section 277, there must be some physical act of defiling water. When a woman of a lower caste among the Hindus draws water from a public well, she cannot be said to defile the water.

The words ‘corrupts or fouls’ mean some act which physically defiles or defouls water for example, bathing in a tank fouls the drinking water. However, fouling of the water of a river running in a continuous stream does not amount to an offence under Section 277, as it is not covered by the words ‘public spring’.

The water of public spring or reservoir belongs to every member of the community, and if a person voluntarily fouls it, he comes within the ambit of Section 277 as it renders the water of the spring less fit for the purpose for which it is ordinarily used. Fouling water of a private well is not punishable under Section 277.

The offence under Section 277 is cognizable but summons should ordinarily issue in the first instance. It is bailable but not compoundable and is triable by any Magistrate summarily.

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