It points to the rot that has set into the city’s civic services. In the first-ever conviction for polluting the Yamuna, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday sentenced former Delhi Jal Board CEO Arun Mathur and two officials to two weeks imprisonment for not repairing sewage lines in a South Delhi colony, despite a court order issued two years ago.
Found guilty of contempt of court, they have also been fined Rs 20,000 each. The court took serious view of the fact that sewage in S Block, Greater Kailash-I, leaked into an adjacent storm water drain and flowed untreated into the
The judge, however, suspended the sentence, giving the officials a “last chance” to comply with the order.
The two others are Chief Engineer (Drainage) R K Jain and Executive Engineer (Drainage) P Pant. “If a department which is meant for looking after the sewer lines is not able to stop the flow of sewage into storm water drain and into the river Yamuna, questions can be raised about the utility of such a department,” Justice SN Dhingra said in his judgment.
The officials have been directed to curb the flow of sewage into storm water within three months failing which they will be sent to jail.
The court was hearing a plea by GK-I residents for initiating contempt proceedings against the DJB officials. Besides polluting the Yamuna, the stench from the rainwater drain being used as a sewage drain "had made life hell for residents and exposed them to diseases like hepatitis and jaundice" said their lawyer Ashok Sethi.
Sethi argued before the court that the three officials were "squarely responsible for the mess".
Denying allegations of "willful and intentional disobedience of the order of the court, DJB pleaded an "unconditional apology for any act considered contemptuous," in the court, through the Board's lawyer Shobhna Takiar.
Reacting angrily to the DJB argument that the four-kilometre Kalkaji trunk sewer had collapsed as it was "35 years old", Justice Dhingra said: "This argument is surprising. This reflects deep-rooted corruption in the department. Main trunk sewer lines are meant to last not for decades but centuries since they are lifelines of cities and with them is connected the entire sewage of different areas of the cities".
Squarely finding the officials guilty of contempt, the court said: "where there is a callous and negligent attitude in fulfilment of the undertaking given to the court, it has to be considered by the court that there is deliberate violation of the order of the court".