New Delhi: It's "unfortunate" that even after a century of Mahatma Gandhi's movement against unhealthy practice of defecating in public, India is yet to get rid of the menace, the Supreme Court on Thursday said.
While upholding Haryana's law that aspirants must have toilets at home to contest panchayat polls, a bench of justices J Chelameswar and A M Sapre observed, "It is a notorious fact that the Indian population for a long time had this unhealthy practice of defecating in public."
"The Father of the Nation wrote copiously on this aspect on various occasions. He took up with a missionary zeal the cause to eradicate this unhealthy practice. At some point of time, he even declared that the priority of this country should be to get rid of such unhealthy practice than to fight for independence.
"It is unfortunate that almost a hundred years after Gandhiji started such a movement, India is still not completely rid of such practice. The reasons are many. Poverty is one of them. However, this unhealthy practice is not exclusive to poorer sections of rural India," the court said.
In its order, the court said that if people still do not have a toilet it is not because of their poverty but because of their lacking the requisite will.
"In a bid to discourage this unhealthy practice, the State has evolved schemes to provide financial assistance to those who are economically not in a position to construct a toilet. As rightly pointed by the respondents, if people still do not have a toilet it is not because of their poverty but because of their lacking the requisite will. One of the primary duties of any civic body is to maintain sanitation within its jurisdiction. Those who aspire to get elected to those civic bodies and administer them must set an example for others.
"To the said end if the legislature stipulates that those who are not following basic norms of hygiene are ineligible to become administrators of the civic body and disqualifies them as a class from seeking election to the civic body, such a policy, in our view, can neither be said to create a class based on unintelligible criteria nor can such classification be said to be unconnected with the object sought to be achieved by Act," the court said.