Which law allows you to turn private toilets into public ones : Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court today asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to explain the provisions under which the civic body had decided to convert ‘private toilets’ into public ones under the Swachh Bharat Mission.

A division bench of Justices A S Oka and Riyaz Iqbal Chagla was hearing a writ petition filed by owners of various petrol pumps from across Mumbai, along with the petrol pump association.

The petitioners were seeking a stay on a notice issued by the civic body on December 22, 2017, under which the BMC had put up signboards across all such stations informing the public to utilise the toilets at petrol pumps.

“It is your obligation to build toilets (under Swachh Bharat Mission). While you do not do that, instead you make private toilets into public toilets,” the bench said.

The petitioners had told the high court that they had been directed by the BMC to make toilets at their stations or premises available for the use of general public free of cost under the Swachh Bharat Mission.

The civic body has also put up signboards to the effect at various petrol pumps, the petitioners said.

“What is the source of power that allows BMC to claim that toilets inside private petrol pumps are public toilets?” questioned the court.

The counsel for the BMC said that the corporation had done so to further the cause of the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Mission.

“A meeting was held and the petitioners had allowed us to use these toilets for public purpose during emergency,” said the counsel.

Justice A S Oka said that action under the Swachh Bharat Mission or any other scheme of the Union government also had to be in accordance to law.

“Which law can allow you to convert private toilets into public toilets,” Justice Oka asked.

He also pointed out that as per the minutes of the meeting submitted by the petitioners, they had never allowed the civic body access to toilets in petrol pumps for general public.

“You cannot put up boards outside their properties saying that the toilets in their premises are public toilets.

How can you do that following the Swachh Bharat Mission. Show us where it says so,” said the court.

The court has now asked the civic body to take instruction in the matter by Wednesday.

“You cannot do this. Take instructions that you will not do this in a private property. The Swachh Bharat Mission cannot affect the rights of others like this. You cannot put up boards without consent of the petrol pump owners. You will have to remove the boards wherever it is required. Otherwise we will have to pass relevant orders,” the high court said.

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