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Today: Aug 19, 2017

Supreme Court Postpones its Decision Concerning Water Stoppages for Citizens Who are Unable to Pay Debts

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Supreme Court Postpones its Decision Concerning Water Stoppages for Citizens Who are Unable to Pay Debts

On Monday, 10 February 2003, the Israeli Supreme Court held a session to study the petition submitted by lawyer Ashraf Seif, head of the legal unit at the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER), against the Jerusalem Municipality, the Jihon Water Company, the Israeli Minister, and the governments legal advisor.

 

 

 

 

 

The petition requested that the Supreme Court declare the water cut-off policy adopted by the Jerusalem and other municipalities, against those who are unable to pay water bills, invalid and in contradiction with the basic law pertaining to an individuals freedom and dignity, and which ensures unconditional water consumption.

 

During the session, the Israeli Supreme Court issued an order forcing the defendants to reply to three questions concerning the water cut-off policy adopted within a maximum period of 45 days.

 

 

 

 

 

These questions were: Are the defendants ready to amend the laws that authorize local authorities to cut-off water supplies to those who are unable to pay their debts, so that water stoppages become the last resort to collect debts from defaulters?

 

 

 

 

Is the water stoppages policy attributed to the fact that the local authorities are convinced that citizens failure to pay is either because they refuse or want to avoid paying their debts?

 

Is it possible to set criteria to reduce the burden on consumers who are unable to pay their debts because of their critical economic situation?

 

Lawyer Seif stated that the Supreme Courts decision will be issued after the defendants submit their replies to the Court

 

The petition includes two important claims:

 

First: Every municipality, including the Jerusalem Municipality, enacted a municipal law that authorizes the municipality to cut off water supplies to those who are unable to pay their debts.

 

 

 

 

The purpose of the petition is to point out that this municipal law is illegal and contradictory to the water law, municipalities law, and basic law pertaining to the individuals freedom and dignity.

 

 

 

 

According to basic law, municipal law cannot authorize water cut-offs without a legal precedent. Rather, the municipal law should draw its authority from another basic law that allows water cut-off. In this case, neither the water law nor the municipalities law authorizes water cut-off in the event that a citizen fails to pay water debts.

 

 

 

 

Therefore, water cut-off by the municipality is illegal.

 

Second: The municipalities law authorizes the municipality to take legal procedures against anyone who fails to pay water bills on time.

 

 

 

 

These procedures are: administrative collection in accordance with the taxes law; and lodging a legal case against the defaulter, followed by executive procedures at the Bailiffs Office.

The petition affirms that since water cut-off is not among these procedures, water cut-off, therefore, is

an illegal measure by the municipalities.