The Uttarakhand High Court registered a Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the issue of lack of provisions of sufficient toilet facilities in the Government and schools in the State of Uttarakhand.
The Petition has been registered as a PIL suo moto by the Court upon receiving a representation dated 20.09.2023, from Sarpanch, Van Panchayat, Dhanachuli. She has brought to the notice of the Court, the issue with regard to lack of provisions of sufficient toilet facilities in the Government Inter College, Dhanachuli. She stated that the said Inter College provides education to school students from Classes VI to XII standard – both the girls and boys, within an approximate student population of 450.
On her visit to the said school, she found that out of 12 toilets available in the Inter College premises, 06 were locked and inaccessible to the students. On her enquiry, the Principal informed her that they have closed the toilets due to absence of staff for their regular cleaning and maintenance. Along with her representation, she has placed on record copies of the photographs taken by her, which show that the toilets are locked.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rakesh Thapliyal noted that the issue brought to light by the Sarpanch is a serious issue, and in view, if this is the situation prevailing in the Government Inter College, Dhanachuli, there is no reason to assume that the same would not be the situation in other Government Colleges / schools / and higher education institutions, Degree Colleges in the State.
“Provision of basic facilities of drinking water, and clean toilets, is one of the fundamental responsibilities of the State. Not only the right of the children to live with dignity is infringed, but also their right to receive education is jeopardized due to lack of such facilities. Lack of basic amenities such as drinking water and clean toilets acts as a big dampner in children going to school, and the same is bound to lead to high rates of drop out from schools and colleges”, the Bench observed.
The Court therefore, treated the representation as a PIL not only in respect of the Government Inter College, Dhanachuli, but all Government colleges and schools in the State of Uttarakhand and issued notice to the respondents.
The Court directed the respondent State to file an affidavit disclosing the following particulars :
i) The total number of Government schools / Inter Colleges / Degree Colleges in the State at all levels. The particulars of all such schools / Inter Colleges / Degree Colleges should be provided.
ii) Whether drinking water and toilet facilities are available in the schools / colleges, or not?
iii) The number of personnel deployed in the schools / Inter Colleges / Degree Colleges for the purpose of cleaning of toilets, and maintenance of sanitation.
iv) The funds allocated by the schools / Inter Colleges / Degree Colleges for the aforesaid purpose in the budget.
v) Whether the toilets are actually functional or under disrepair.
vi) What kind of drinking water facilities have been provided in Government schools / Inter Colleges / Degree Colleges, and the budget allotted therefor.
vii) Whether the Parent Teacher Association stands constituted in the schools / Inter Colleges / Degree Colleges and, if so, when was the last meeting held.
viii) Whether the aforesaid aspects are being supervised by the Parent Teacher Association, or not?
The Court directed that the aforesaid information be provided in a tabulated form for the perusal of the Court on aforesaid and the affidavits be filed by the Secretary, Higher Education, Government of Uttarakhand, in relation to the Government Institutions of higher education, and; by the Secretary, Secondary Education, Government of Uttarakhand, in respect of the other Government institutions upto Class XII.
All the District Legal Services Authorities are directed by the High Court to inspect all government schools / Inter Colleges / Degree Colleges falling within the area of their Districts and to furnish a report with regard to the correct status of the available toilet facilities and drinking water facilities. “Inspection reports be filed in a tabulated form in respect of all such schools and colleges before the next date. The aspects taken note of hereinabove should also be reported by the DLSAs.”
Matter is listed on 12.10.2023 for further hearing.