Shimla, Dec 5, 2023
The High Court of Himachal Pradesh, led by Justice Vivek Thakur and Justice Sandeep Sharma, issued a landmark order on Dec 4, 2023, addressing the persistent issue of inadequate sanitary facilities along National and State Highways. This case, initiated in 2017, emphasizes the crucial need for proper civic amenities to safeguard citizens and travelers from the perils of open defecation, improper waste disposal, and water contamination.
The case originated from concerns about substandard sanitation practices along highways, posing health and environmental risks, especially with Himachal Pradesh’s high tourist footfall. The absence of proper toilets and waste disposal systems not only impacts the local populace but also stains the state’s reputation as a tourist hotspot.
In its 2017 order, the High Court, based on inputs from Advocate Deven Khanna, outlined a comprehensive 10-point action plan. Key provisions included the establishment of easily accessible public toilets, differentiated services in public and private facilities, ensuring women’s safety, proper disposal mechanisms, and involvement of drivers and conductors in promoting designated toilet stops.
In the latest order, the Chief Secretary of Himachal Pradesh is mandated to submit an affidavit within two weeks, detailing progress since 2017 and specifically addressing the implementation of orders from 2017 and 2018. This step aims to scrutinize the State’s efforts in providing sanitation facilities along highways.
The High Court’s sustained attention to this matter underscores the fundamental nature of sanitation as a right and a vital element of public health. The case exemplifies the judiciary’s role in upholding civic rights and demanding accountability from the government. The upcoming hearing on Dec 21, 2023, holds promise for further advancements in this critical public welfare issue.