The Delhi High Court today rapped Northern Railways for objecting to setting up of pre-fabricated toilets on its land in the Shakur Basti area in west Delhi for the people living in the slums there. The high court had earlier directed setting up toilets in the area. “The court fails to appreciate the reluctance of the Northern Railway to implement the direction of May 12, 2017,” a bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vibhu Bakhru said while hearing a contempt plea moved by Congress leader Ajay Maken claiming that the high court’s order was not implemented. The bench issued notices to Northern Railway and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) seeking their stand on the plea seeking contempt action against them.
The DUSIB, in its defence, told the court that it had identified four locations, in a joint inspection with the officials of Northern Railway, for setting up the toilets. It said that the railway was objecting to providing the pre-fabricated toilets to the encroachers on its land. The railway submitted that there were toilets near the Mansarovar Park flyover and added that as per its latest policy of August 9 regarding toilets for encroachers, only mobile toilets can be provided. The bench rubbished the railway’s contention and asked, “How will the people reach there? By taking a bus or a metro?” The bench said that the toilets that the railway was referring to were in east Delhi while the slum was in west Delhi.
It also did not approve of the railway’s latest policy decision, saying it appeared to be aimed at thwarting the order of the high court. It directed Northern Railway to allow installation of the pre-fabricated toilets on its land in the Shakur Basti area for the people living there, saying it was a necessity in monsoon. It also ordered the railway to cooperate with DUSIB which was directed to immediately commence the installation at the four sites identified near Shakur Basti and to finish the work within two weeks. The toilets would ultimately be removed by DUSIB at its cost, the court said.
During the arguments, advocate Aman Panwar, appearing for Maken, said that mobile toilets were hardly sufficient as they were inefficient and unhygienic, especially in the monsoon months. The court noted this argument of the lawyer and added that in the monsoon months it was absolutely necessary to discourage open defecation in view of health and sanitary concerns and therefore, pre-fabricated toilets were needed. The matter has been listed for further hearing on October 13.