Court issues detailed guidelines to Corporations in setting up toilet facilities for `women walking on the streets’

Bombay High Court: While considering a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), seeking a mandamus directing All Municipal Corporations to set up safe and clean public toilet facilities for ‘women walking on the streets’, A.S. Oka and Revati Mohite Dere, JJ., held that the health of the people in the city is inextricably linked to its toilets and it is imperative to provide them in sufficient number and that no human being can live with dignity unless there are facilities to maintain basic hygiene and the right conferred by Article 21 cannot be meaningful if facilities of clean toilets and hygienic toilets are not provided to a woman walking on streets.

Niramay Public Charitable Trust, Milun Suryajani (a media organisation), and Smt. Vidya Bal, social activist had raised the issue of lack of toilet facilities for women through a public interest litigation. They said that there are approximately 17 lakh women residing in the Pune Municipal Corporation area and for 17 Lakh women, there are only 180 urinals. They also submitted before the Court that there was no bonafide effort on the part of the Pune Municipal Corporation to discharge their public duties, imposed on them by the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act. The Court observed that various provisions of the Constitution including Articles 47 and 48-A impose an inevitable duty on the state to ensure the welfare of its citizens which includes right to clean toilets.

The Court also added that Public health is of paramount importance and that it is the duty of the State and the Corporations to ensure that public latrines, urinals and similar conveniences are constructed, maintained and kept in a hygienic condition. In furtherance of these observations, the Court issued various guidelines to the Municipal Corporations for construction of toilets/ urinals/ restrooms/ privies for women walking on the streets by forming a ‘committee’ within 4 weeks. It also directed the corporations to file their first compliance before 8th of March, 2016 setting out details of the scheme formulated by them and steps taken pursuant to the same. [Milun Suryajani v. Pune Municipal Commissioner, 2015 SCC OnLine Bom 6256 ,Decided on 23.12.2015]

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