The Patna High Court in the case of The National Highway Projects in the State of Bihar v. State of Bihar noted that Men, unlike women, stand unashamedly on highways to relieve themselves, but society cannot expect the same from the latter.
The Patna High Court has directed the Bihar government, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), and oil marketing companies to consider installing public toilets along state highways.
The bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar, found that it was the State’s responsibility to provide adequate sanitation and personal care services on highways. The importance of providing proper sanitation facilities for women on highways was also mentioned.
“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,” The Bench Stated in it’s Order
The Court lamented the absence of highway amenities in the homeland of Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, who revolutionised India’s sanitation system by installing Sulabh Sauchayalas across the country.
The right to sanitation was virtually recognised as a fundamental right by courts after a careful review of the legislative, constitutional, and international responsibilities that the Central and State governments were required to follow.
Bare necessities of life include 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…
…State is under obligation to provide basic amenities to the citizens on the Highways, while ensuring that their right of sanitation/ basic amenities is not defeated,the Court Held
The Court stated that the State’s role was much more pressing in the case of women.
“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?” the Court Probed in to issue
In addition, the Court evaluated the matter of putting more petrol pumps on roads in order to reduce petrol and diesel blackmarketing. It was discovered that installing petrol pumps at regular intervals has both economic and social benefits.
“The equitable distribution of essential commodities, such as petroleum, is a positive obligation on the State, and must continually take steps to ensure that this obligation is met. In this regard, periodical survey for updating is absolutely necessary. Numerous benefits accrue when the same is fulfilled…easy access to petrol will go a long way in curbing blackmarketing practices an evil of society.”The Court Stated
As a result, the Court stated that in order to further the cause of holistic development, authorities must take steps to build units that are permitted.
The Bench issued the following directives with the following observations:
- The Chief Secretary of the Government of Bihar will look into the most efficient approach to reap the benefits of setting up petrol stations;
- The state, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and oil corporations should consider constructing public bathrooms that are accessible to women walking or driving on the roads, as well as individuals with disabilities;
- Accessibility for people with impairments should be considered while building amenities;
- All toilets must be sufficiently staffed and have a functional sanitary napkin disposal system;
- Authorities should consider requiring dhabas and restaurants along highways to provide public bathrooms and water, as well as to maintain hygiene.
As amicus curiae, Senior Advocate PK Shahi appeared. Additional Advocate General Anjani Kumar and Advocate Alok Kumar Rahi represented the state. Advocates Kumar represented the Union of India. Pallav and Priya Ranjan. The NHAI was represented by Additional Solicitor General KN Singh, as well as Advocates Maurya Vijay Chandra, Devansh, Amarjeet, Gaurav Govinda, Gaurav Kumar, and Anjali Kumari.