Right to sanitation fundamental right, Himachal Pradesh High Court urges construction of public toilets

Published on 18 Jun 2017 by Team

Ruling that right to sanitation is a fundamental right under Article 21, the Himachal Pradesh High Court has urged the State of Himachal Pradesh to construct public toilets along the highways.

The order was passed by a Bench of Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Sandeep Sharma on May 19. Advocate General Shrawan Dogra appeared for the State government while advocate Deven Khanna served as Amicus Curiae.

The Court noted the absence of public conveniences in the State leading to hardships, especially for travelling public and how this was causing damage to ecology and pollution.

“This Court is informed that on a broad estimate, more than 500 buses daily ply in the State of Himachal Pradesh. Shockingly, on the Highways, there are not public conveniences available. The hardship, which the passengers, so travelling in a public transport, in particular ladies and children, suffer undoubtedly, is immense and painful. In fact, agonizing. The agony of the local residents is compounded with the influx of transitory tourist population, which also is in huge number.”

The Court cited a plethora of decisions of the Supreme Court to assert that right to sanitation is very much a part of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

“In view of ever expanding definition of right to life, citizen of the country are certainly entitled to civic amenities and medical aid, during the course of his/her travel, which he/she undertakes, by whatsoever mode of transport, on the State/ National Highways. It clearly emerge from the some of the judgments, as referred hereinabove, that right to Sanitation has been now virtually accepted as constitutional right as fundamental rights like right to water, right to health, right to healthy environment, right to education and right to dignity are directly related to right of sanitation. Bare necessities of life includes proper sanitation facilities as the practice of open defecation or a life with polluted drinking water source and environment cannot be considered as a life of dignity as understood in the context of Right to life under the constitution.”

The Court also said that “sanitation must be safe, affordable and culturally acceptable”. It, therefore, proceeded to make certain suggestions to the state government.

i). Public toilets can be constructed at places, which could be easily located by the public at large and in this regard sign boards of “ Public Toilets” or “ Private Toilets” should be displayed;

ii) Free services should be provided in cases of public toilets and charges could be prescribed for private toilets and in all toilets, staff should be provided to take care and maintain the same;

iii) The facilities should be easily accessible by the ladies walking or driving on the roads, and they are not be dangerous or inconvenient place, so as to encourage its use by the ladies;

iv). The facilities should have proper disposal system for disposal of sanitary napkins;

v). It is necessary to ensure the safety and security of women, proper action should be taken against the male members/attendants, if they are found sitting outside the ladies toilets in a drunken state.

vi). Authorities may also consider it to make it necessary/mandatory for all the Dhabas/ Restaurants on the highways to make available public toilets for the use of general public, rather authorities while granting permission to such Dhabas/ Restaurants shall consider incorporating specific conditions with regard to provision of toilets and rest rooms and to maintain hygiene of the samefailing which their registration/permit to carry out the business could be cancelled.

vii) Apart from above, there is emergent need to provide medical aid on the highways at appropriate places, so that immediate relief/help is provided to the commuters/travelers in the event of emergency. Needless to say, such medical aid centres aid should be well equipped so that best possible first aid is provided on the requirement basis.

The Court has also sought a report from the Chief Secretary of the State regarding the progress made. The matter is now listed for hearing on July 6.

Courtesy: Bar & Bench

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