Access to clean toilet a fundamental right: Patna high court | India News

Access to clean toilet a fundamental right: Patna high court | India News

NEW DELHI: Understanding long distance road travellers’ plight in the absence of clean toilets, the Patna high court has ruled that right to access a clean toilet on highways is a fundamental right and ordered the Bihar government and National Highways Authority to take urgent measures to provide public conveniences at regular intervals at petrol pumps, dhabas or restaurants.
A bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar in its 38-page judgment last month said, “Given the ever-expanding definition of right to life, citizens are entitled to civic amenities and medical aid, during the course of travel by whatever mode of transport, on the state/national highways.” It asked the state government to amend appropriate rules, if necessary, to mandate dhabas and restaurants on highways to give access to toilets to travellers.
Writing the judgment, Justice Karol said, “Right to sanitation has been virtually accepted as fundamental rights like right to water, right to health, right to healthy environment, right to education, and right to dignity directly related to right of sanitation. Bare necessities of life include proper sanitation facilities such 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 HC said, “Unlike women, men shamelessly stand on the Highways to ease off themselves, but a society cannot expect the same from the former and therefore it is an urgent duty upon the State/its instrumentalities to ensure that such needs, which are the very definition of basic needs, are met… (It is an) 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.”
The bench said, “Equally, the State has also upon its obligations imposed by International law- various Human Rights Instruments and Resolutions to ensure that the basic right of sanitation is available to all, irrespective of any differences in social or economic status.”
The HC described the plight of long distance women travellers succinctly. “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?”
“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‚Äôs 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 said.
The bench of CJ Karol and Justice Kumar ordered, “The State, NHAI and the Oil Marketing Companies (must) consider setting up of public toilets and public conveniences at places easily identifiable and accessible by the public at large, and in this regard, signboards of ‘Public Toilets’ or ‘Private Toilets’ be displayed at the retail outlets. Such facilities should be easily accessible by the ladies walking or driving on the roads. All toilets must be adequately staffed for taking care and maintaining the same with a proper system for the disposal of sanitary napkins.”

Assam Press