Right to sanitation comes within the expansive and further expanding scope of Article 21: Patna High Court

Right to sanitation comes within the expansive and further expanding scope of Article 21: Patna High Court

The Patna High Court ruled that the right to sanitation comes within the expansive and further expanding scope of Article 21.

Background  

The division bench of the Chief Justice Sanjay Karol, and Justice S. Kumar said that its discussion, herein later, in relation to several statutes/orders/guidelines/circulars unmistakably points to the obligation on the part of the State (all stakeholders) in establishing sufficient facilities for sanitation and personal care on the Highways, be it on the Petrol Pumps or otherwise.

Even earlier, it had emphasized the need for setting up of such facilities both on the National and the State Highways. How would a lactating mother travelling from Kishanganj (farthest District from the capital city of Bihar) to Patna (capital city) feed an infant or ease off herself without any such facilities available on the Highways? How would a patient travelling from Kaimur to Patna, the nearest State Level Hospital, undertake such a journey without using such facilities on the Highways? How would, a woman, travelling even in a private transport to a tourist destination, such as Nalanda; Gaya; Madhubani; Bithiharwa; West Champaran; Vikramshila; Tomb of Sher Shah Suri at Sasaram and other places of interest, including different religious places of importance of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, travel without any amenities in Bihar? Manersharif at Maner, Patna is an international attraction for people hailing from the Islamic faith; the famous University of Nalanda which occupies an important place in India’s rich and diverse history is also a place often visited by tourist both from within and outside the country. None have thought of having facilities of public concern to such places.

It is so unfortunate that in the land of Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, who revolutionized the public health, hygiene and sanitation concept in India by establishing Sulabh Sauchayalas throughout the country that public toilets and proper sanitation facilities are nowhere to be seen. 

Court observation 

The court stated that the Constitution envisages the establishment of a welfare State at the federal level and at the state level. In a welfare State, the primary duty of the Government is to secure the welfare of the people. The right to live with human dignity enshrined in Article 21 derives its life breath from the Directive Principles of State Policy and particularly clauses (e) and (f) of Article 39 and Articles 41 and 42, and at the least, therefore, it must include protection of the health and strength of the workers, men and women, and of the tender age of children against abuse, opportunities and facilities for children to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity, educational facilities, just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief. These are the minimum requirements that must exist to enable a person to live with human dignity, and no State, neither the Central Government nor any State Government has the right to take any action that will deprive a person of the enjoyment of these basic essentials. 

The court noted the caution in setting up petrol pumps. Regard must be given to the fact that petrol is a product of a conventional source of energy, i.e. crude oil. Therefore, the distribution of said commodity is done so that the paramount consideration of environmental suitability and resource conservation is given due consideration. While sanctioning such projects, the Authorities should keep in mind the entire gamut of effects that such a decision will have and not just those of economic and social benefit. 

The court directed the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar, to convene a meeting of all stakeholders to examine the best and most efficient way to realize the multifarious benefits arising from the establishment of petrol pumps with equal importance being placed upon economic, social and environmental aspects. Also ensure that a sample survey for ascertaining the requirement of additional fresh Petrol Pumps/Gas Retail Outlets is carried out at the earliest.  

The court further directed the Development Commissioner, Government of Bihar, who is already seized of the matter to take expedient steps in furtherance of the action(s) taken thus far. 

The court ordered the Oil Marketing Companies to take steps to verify the continued interest or otherwise of the allottees/proposed allottees. The entire pending process of allotment shall be finalized within the time stipulated in the minutes of the Development Commissioner, Bihar.

Case title: The National Highway Projects in the State of Bihar v/s The State of Bihar

Citation: Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No.8900 of 2020

Click here to read the Order/Judgment 

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