Human Rights, Prevention, Constitutional, Liability
Residents of a locality within limits of Ratlam Municipality tormented by stench and stink caused by open drains and public excretion by nearby slum-dwellers moved the Magistrate under S. 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code to require the Municipality to do its duty to towards the members of the public. The Magistrate gave directions to the Municipality to draft a plan within six months for removing of the nuisance. In the appeal, the order was reversed by the Sessions Court. The High Court approved of the order of the Magistrate and subsequently the case came before the Supreme Court. The key question the Court had to answer was whether by affirmative action a court could compel a statutory body to carry out its duty to the community by constructing sanitation facilities at great cost and on a time-bound basis. According to S. 123 of the M.P. Municipalities Act 1961, the Council had the duty to undertake adequate provisions within its Municipality with regard to the cleansing of public areas, disposing of rubbish and abating of all public nuisances. However, the Municipality argued that the municipal funds were insufficient and therefore it could not carry out the duties under S. 123 of the Act. Notwithstanding the public nuisance the financial inability validly exonerated it from the statutory liability. The Court was of the view that the Criminal Procedure Act operated against statutory bodies and others regardless of the cash in their coffers, even as human rights under the Constitution had to be respected by the State regardless of budgetary provisions. Otherwise, a profligate statutory body or governmental agency could legally defy duties under the law by urging in self-defense a self-created bankruptcy or perverted expenditure budget. A responsible municipal council constituted for the precise purpose of preserving public health and providing better finances could not run away from its principal duty by pleading financial inability. Decency and dignity were non-negotiable facets of human rights and were a first charge on local self-governing bodies. Similarly, providing drainage systems- not pompous and attractive, but in working condition and sufficient to meet the needs of the people- could not be evaded if the municipality was to justify its existence. The Court agreed that what could not be performed under given circumstances could not be prescribed as a norm to be carried out. Therefore, it was willing to revise the order of the Magistrate into a workable formula, the implementation of which would be watch dogged by the court. It consequently made orders regarding the prevention of effluents flowing into the street, the construction of a sufficient number of public latrines and construction of drains. It expressed its confidence that the State Government would make available by way of loans or grants sufficient financial aid to the Ratlam Municipality to enable it to fulfill its obligations under this order. The Municipality would also slim its budget on low priority items and elitist projects to use the savings on public health and sanitation. The Court concluded by saying that the law would relentlessly be enforced and the plea of poor finance would be a poor alibi when people in misery cried for justice. The wages of violation of the constitutional duties were punishment, corporate and personal.