Citation – 1980 AIR 1622

Article 47 of the Indian Constitution imposes a duty upon the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and improve public health. Supreme Court, in this case, held that the State must realize that Article 47 is a paramount principle of governance and steps are taken for the improvement of public health as amongst its primary duties. 

 Facts of this Case:

According to Section 123 of The M.P. Municipalities Act 1961, the Municipality had the duty to clean public areas, dispose of the wastes and prevent public nuisances. 

Residents of Ratlam (a city in Madhya Pradesh ) moved an application under S.133 of Cr.P.C. before the Sub-Divisional Magistrate against the Municipality stating that the authorities have failed to meet the basic obligation of providing the sanitary facilities on the roads, public conveniences for slum dwellers using the road and prevention of the discharge from the nearby Alcohol Plant of malodorous fluids into the public street. 

Due to insanitation and half-constructed drain, water is accumulated in the pits which causes a bulk of mosquitoes to breed. The contaminated water entering nearby houses creates a nuisance as well as a health threat for the residents of that locality.

The Sub-Divisional Magistrate directed the Municipality to remove the nuisance within six months. High Court also approved the order of the SDM. 

The Municipality went for an appeal before the Supreme Court and contended that it did not have sufficient funds to carry out the work.

Issue Raised

Whether a court can compel a statutory body to perform its statutory obligation to provide sanitation facilities to the community?

Judgment 

While delivering the judgment, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer dismissed the argument of the Ratlam Municipality that it could not perform the statutory duties due to financial inability. The Supreme Court stated, “[a] responsible municipal council constituted for the precise purpose of preserving public health and providing better finances cannot run away from its principal duty by pleading financial inability. Decency and dignity are non-negotiable facets of human rights and are the first charge on local self-governing bodies.” 

The Supreme court directed the Municipality to follow the order given by the Sub Divisional Magistrate immediately. The court also added that non-compliance of orders would lead to a charge of criminal contempt. 

Analysis

The judgment given by Apex Court is a landmark judgment in environmental protection. This became an eye-opener for the public-spirited individuals and encouraged them to fight for their basic needs of sanitation. The judgment acts as a precedent where the action lies against the Municipality to fulfill its Public health obligations.

(By – Anupama)

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