Allowing mosquitoes to breed akin to culpable homicide: Delhi high court
The Delhi high court rapped the city’s municipal corporations on Wednesday, saying “heads must roll” for not clearing garbage and allowing mosquitoes that spread dengue, chikungunya and malaria to breed.
Letting vector-borne diseases to shoot up is equal to penal offences such as culpable homicide, said a bench of acting chief justice Gita Mittal and justice C Hari Shankar.
The court was hearing two petitions, seeking directions to the corporations to prevent spread of mosquito-borne diseases. The corporations listed preventive measures against mosquito breeding before the onset of monsoon. But the court was unimpressed.
“You are giving excellent five-year plans with lots of chai and samosa ... First, set your house in order. See if your staff are doing their job,” the bench said.
The bench order came after it watched a TV news report inside the courtroom on the corporations’ failure to keep the city clean. The report contradicted the civic agencies’ affidavit about their cleanliness drive, which the court described as hogwash.
The court directed additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain to take action against corporation officials.
“This is a callous disregard of the rights of the citizens ... Take action against the officers who are responsible... and it can’t be the safai karamcharis on the ground,” the bench said.
The city of more than 20 million grapples with thousands of cases of dengue and chikungunya during the monsoon season. The worst outbreak was in 2010, when dengue killed eight and affected more than 6,000 people.
Chikungunya, an illness that causes high fever and joint pain, is less deadly. Dengue symptoms are similar but the disease causes severe complications and sudden death from uncontrolled bleeding.
Authorities often face flak for the uncontrolled spawning of aedes aegypti and anopheles mosquitoes — carriers of dengue and chikungunya viruses and the malaria parasite — in stagnant water pools.
The health crisis sparks political rows between the city’s Aam Aadmi Party government and the BJP-ruled civic agencies. The three municipal corporations blame the Arvind Kejriwal government of not releasing adequate funds to pay salary to sanitation staff.
The chief minister dismisses the allegation and accuses rival party councillors of siphoning of funds meant for salaries of workers. The BJP denies the charges.
The tussle triggers strikes by sanitation workers over unpaid pay, leaving large parts of the Capital littered with mounds of rotting garbage.
During the campaign for the civic polls this April, Kejriwal said: “If you vote for the BJP and if your child falls prey to chikungunya or dengue, you are responsible for it.”
His comments attracted criticism, although it is acknowledged generally the responsibility to keep the city clean rest on the civic agencies.
The high court said on Wednesday the municipal corporations should file a petition against the central government that they don’t have money to clean the city.
Besides, the bench remarked that if the trifurcation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) in 2012 was not working, they should be made into a single unit.
The court reminded the corporations that sanitation staff weren’t given adequate equipment such as brooms, spades or safety items. “All you need is to improve your garbage disposal and you don’t even accept your failure. Is this the way 21st century’s Delhi will look like? Is this the way sewage will be cleaned with bare hands in the Capital?” the bench asked.
The court also took note of a city government affidavit that says 90% of the 65 posts of malaria inspectors in East Delhi Municipal Corporation are vacant.
The commissioners of south, north and east corporations are directed to attend the next hearing on June 27.