A Division Bench of Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Sandeep Sharma held that 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.
“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 Bench also observed that with large number of pronouncements having been made by various constitutional courts of this country, more particularly, Supreme Court, Article 21 of the Constitution of India protects right to life as a fundamental right, wherein its meaning/scope has been considerably expended by the judicial pronouncement, as a result of which, enjoyment of life and its attainment including the right to life with human dignity has been imparted as a basic fundamental right of citizen of the country
Public Toilets In Highways
While dealing with another Case, Justice Sanjay Karol, called the status report qua the availability of various sanitary facilities, if any, on the National/State Highways in the State of Himachal Pradesh. The Government informed the Court that on a broad estimate, more than 500 buses daily ply in the State of Himachal Pradesh. Then the Court has registered this matter as a PIL.
In the aforesaid background, the Court was of the definite view that State is under obligation to provide basic amenities to the citizens of the country while ensuring that their right of sanitation is not defeated. Definitely, citizens travelling on the State/National Highways, need to be protected from open defecation, untreated disposal of waste into streams and contamination of water supplies, which could be caused by the heavy influx of tourists and lack of proper amenities in the State.
The Court held that the non availability of public conveniences on the State as well as National Highways in the State of H.P. shall further add to pollution in the State of Himachal Pradesh. Apart from above, Himachal Pradesh being most favourite fascinating tourism destination is bond to receive lots of tourist from various States of Country as well as other parts of world.
“The situation is alarming and in case adequate steps are not taken by the respondents-State immediately, great damage would be caused to the ecology of the State and apart from above, there may be out of break of epidemic which may cause serious threat to the resident/citizens of the State”
The Court held that it is required to be done at war footing by the respondents to provide public convenience on the State as well as National Highways that too at after certain distances.
The Court has issued the following suggestions;
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 same, failing 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.
viii). Authorities may also involve Driver/ Conductor driving their vehicles on these highways in this campaign by specifically directing them to stop their vehicles at a place where commuters/ travelers can avail facility of toilet apart from taking refreshment;
xi) Authorities may also involve public sector undertaking or private operators in the State of H.P.in this campaign, who come forward to render their help in the greater public interest;
x) To engage with Active Civil Society organizations, active individuals as they are key elements that may improve the success rate of campaigns at grassroots level.
Read the Order here.