Suo Moto v. State of Rajasthan

AIR 2005 Raj 82; RLW 2005 (2) Raj 1437
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The case was regarding multiple suo moto orders issued by the Rajasthan High Court to the municipal authorities of the city of Jaipur to clean-up, restore and maintain the city which was plagued with trash, open sewage and polluted water bodies. Specific orders were issued to remove and dispose of the plastic and polyethylene bags which littered the city and contributed to the degradation of the soil and pollution of water bodies.

The Court upheld the ‘Right to Life’ under Article 21 of the Constitution, which included the ‘Right to a decent environment’ and the ‘Right to live in a clean city’. Therefore, the Court found that it was imperative that the municipal bodies and other concerned authorities perform their statutory duties and ensure the same.

Relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Municipal Council, Ratlam v. Vardhichand, AIR 1980 SC 1622, it was held that the Court could compel a statutory body to carry out its duties to the community via an affirmative action.  Lack of sufficient funds was not an excuse for the authorities to avoid discharging their obligation to provide and maintain basic civic amenities.

The Court observed that one of the factors contributing to urban decay was the increase in rural-urban migration. It noted that the State should provide opportunities for work and secure food, clothing and shelter in the place the villages to which the migrants belong in order to reduce the pressure on cities. The State should also protect ecology and regulate activities which degrade the environment.

The Court issued directions to the State which included, inter alia, directing it to plan a waste-management strategy for effective collection and disposal of garbage; remove encroachments and illegal constructions; build night shelters for homeless persons; create awareness and educate the public on cleanliness, hygiene, protecting the environment and respecting the law.

“Due to the failure of civil authorities and other bodies to discharge their duties under Article 21 of the Constitution and statutory provisions, the quality of life in the city has gone down tremendously. Civic bodies and other authorities have been taking refuge under the puerile excuse that they do not have funds to perform their duties. The plea of lack of finances must be rejected. Inaction of the authorities cannot be tolerated, as that will make a mockery of Article 21 of the Constitution and the statutory provisions under which they are obliged to carry out their duties, including the duty to provide and maintain civic amenities which make life worth living.” [para. 4]