Ameer Bano v. S. E. Highways

PLD 1996 Lahore 592
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The Petitioner, Ameer Bano, owned a house at Multan Road, Bahawalpur. She brought a claim before High Court of Lahore alleging that her right to life and freedom from disease under article 9 of the Constitution of Pakistan was violated by the breakdown of the sewerage system. The breakdown had caused dirty water to enter houses and flood the roads. Moreover, the Petitioner complained that a highway that was being constructed near her house was of such a height that it would cause the “dirty water overflowing the gutters [to] enter the residential houses”. Several shopkeepers in the affected areas had also raised grievances about the presence of uncovered manholes which were then blocked by garbage. The Respondent Government did not deny the condition of the sewerage system. However, it pointed out that a ban on fresh recruitment of workers imposed by the Government and its inability to offer attractive wages to trained personnel made it impossible to properly maintain the sewerage system.

The Court held that it had jurisdiction to entertain the case and issue appropriate directions. It held that, under article 199 of the Constitution, the Court had the power to direct an authority to do anything to prevent the violation of, or cause the enforcement of a fundamental right. The Court regarded this case as public interest litigation given that a fundamental right was at stake.

The Court held that in this case the fundamental right to life and to be free from diseases was being violated, because the improper maintenance of the sewage system meant that the Petitioners had a high risk of suffering diseases. It made orders instructing the Respondent Government to remedy this violation of the right to life.

As to remedial measures to be undertaken by the Respondent Government, the Court issued the following directions:

  1. The Municipal Corporation would recruit 50 men for the purposes of cleaning the sewerage system, despite the ban imposed on fresh recruitment.
  2. Water tanks were to be used to remove dirty water which was collected.
  3. All uncovered manholes in the city were to be covered expeditiously.

“It appears that the sewerage system in most parts of Bahawalpur City has completely broken down in the past few days. Public protests have also been lodged. On account of the presence of dirty water coming out of the gutters in the residential and commercial areas of Bahawalpur City, it is apprehended that the residents will contract many diseases which in turn will mean that human life in the area will be endangered. Thus, protection to life guaranteed under Article 9 of the Constitution will stand denied to a large number of citizens. Therefore, I have treated the present petition as public interest litigation for enforcement of the fundamental rights, and it was on this account that I have decided to dispose of this petition immediately, dispensing with the normal procedure of admitting the cases in the first instance” [PLD 1996 Lahore 592, Para 4].

“The position that emerges, therefore, is to alleviate the miseries of the large number of citizens of Bahawalpur and to secure to them their fundamental right guaranteed under Article 9 of the Constitution with regard to protection oftheir life from diseases and inconvenience.”[PLD 1996 Lahore 592, Para 10].