Civic Bodies Misled us on Steps Taken to Prevent Dengue, Says Delhi HC
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday warned the civic bodies of contempt proceedings.
New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday slammed the civic bodies for "misleading" it by filing "false reports" on steps to control the menace of vector-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya in the national capital and warned of contempt proceedings.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said as several judicial orders passed on every aspect of the matter have fallen on deaf ears, "action under the Contempt of Court Act is certainly invited".
The court said it has been "misled and cheated" by the corporations, especially the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC), which had said that they have taken preventive steps to control such diseases and added such conduct was "completely unpardonable" where issues of public health was concerned.
Despite the strong views expressed by the court, it did not issue any contempt of court notices to the authorities and decided to wait for the status report by a TV reporter who has been tasked with random inspection of any area in Delhi to ascertain the cleanliness there.
While punitive action may be necessary, the court noted that it is essential to ensure that the work of garbage disposal, which directly impacts breeding of the disease carrying mosquitoes, is addressed on war footing. The observations and order of the court came after it saw a news report by the same channel with regard to non-removal of garbage by EDMC from the Shastri Nagar area in Delhi.
The bench, which showed the video in the court room, said that the TV programmed highlighted the "contradiction" in the civic body's version and the ground situation.
"The programme manifests that not only there is no schedule maintained by EDMC, there is complete apathy to mounds of garbage accumulating near residential areas and on the roads. Open drains are filled with garbage.
"The insects seen in the video clearly manifest that status reports with regard to action taken to prevent dengue and chikungunya are completely false. It is obvious that the court was being misled with regard to action taken to discharge statutory functions and public obligations," the court said.
It said the news report shows the failure of the authorities in performing their duties, which "pains us". The bench was also displeased with the issue of MCD staff not getting their salaries, which was also highlighted in the news video.
"Delhi cannot go on like this. We do not know what will happen if we get exhausted," the court said and directed that a soft copy of the news item be placed before the senior officials of the Centre, Delhi government, LG, MCD for their inspection.
It expressed concern over non payment of salary to a woman MCD staff member, shown in the news, and asked the counsel to inform it on the next date of hearing about the status of payment to be made to her.
The bench during the hearing said, "You (MCD) have mentioned in your affidavits that you have cleaned all the areas in Delhi. However, the media reports show that the garbage is not collected even in four days."
"It's a very serious matter. It speaks volumes of what you (EDMC) are doing. Your status report (in dengue and chikungunya matter) is completely contradictory. It amounts to contempt of court.
"You can't file a false report in court. Citizens can't suffer because you pass the buck," the bench said, adding that the governance cannot go on like this. The programme also highlighted other issues faced by EDMC workers like lack of proper shoes, clothing and equipment to clean drains and garbage.
"Without constant monitoring these authorities don't move a step ahead," the bench noted, and asked the Union and Delhi Urban Development secretaries and commissioners of civic bodies to watch the video.
The grievances raised by the citizens as well as the MCD employees brought out in the film emanate from lack of wherewithal which includes brooms, proper uniforms in the nature of footwear, protective clothing, etc. for cleaning gutters, payment of wages lack of appropriate machines for garbage removal as well as lack of funds by the MCD, the court said.
The court is already hearing PILs claiming the government and civic agencies have not taken preventive steps against vector-borne diseases such as chikungunya and engue. The government and civic bodies had told the court that they have taken all the steps to prevent these diseases. Earlier, the court had also expressed ispleasure over the report that 90 cases of chikungunya and 36 cases of dengue have been reported so far even before the onset of the monsoon.
As many as 4,431 cases of dengue were reported till the end of 2016 in Delhi, according to a report of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation which tabulates the data on behalf of all the three municipal corporations in the city.
Delhi also saw one of the worst outbreaks of chikungunya in the city last year with a total of 12,221 cases reported till December 24, 2016 out of which 9,749 were confirmed.
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