Control mosquito-borne diseases or face imprisonment: Delhi HC warns officers
Under Section 269, a person can get up to six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine for “unlawfully or negligently” committing an act that may spread a life-threatening disease.delhi Updated: Apr 12, 2018 00:40 IST
The Delhi high court on Wednesday pulled up the Delhi administration for their “complete insensitivity” in controlling vector-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya, and said it would impose fines and imprison for up to six months officials if their negligence led to an outbreak.
Twenty-five dengue cases have been treated in Delhi hospitals this year till the week ending April 7, with public health experts predicting a spike following the spell of unseasonal rain this week. Hindustan Times had reported on March 6 that epidemiologists have predicted cases may rise before the monsoons this year because the temperature last winter did not drop under 16 degrees Celsius for long enough to end mosquito breeding and virus transmission.
“It is high time that the people responsible for hygiene and clean environment are held responsible for their actions… we see no reason as to why, in the event of death resulting from a vector-borne disease, the persons who are responsible be not charged with Section 269,” said the oral order of the bench comprising acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and justice C Hari Shankar.
Under Section 269, a person can get up to six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine for “unlawfully or negligently” committing an act that may spread a life-threatening disease.
The court’s order came while hearing public interest litigations by lawyers Arpit Bhargava and Gauri Grover seeking directions to municipal bodies and other state and Central authorities to take steps to prevent the spread of dengue, chikungunya and malaria.
Rainwater and fresh water collected in containers, tanks, buckets, vases and bottle caps is the breeding ground for Aedes mosquitoes that spread chikungunya and dengue. The two diseases, and malaria, together sickened 9,271 people and led to 10 deaths in 2017, according to data from the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), which maintains annual records for vector-borne diseases. Many infections possibly go unreported since the number of hospitalisation and deaths is far fewer.
Dengue causes flu-like illness, with symptoms of headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands or rash lasting for two to seven days. Death, though rare, is from potentially fatal complications, such as dengue haemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome.
The most common symptoms of chikungunya are fever and joint pain, and patients may report headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rashes.
SDMC officials say they have started measures to control mosquito breeding and track infection a month ahead of schedule this year. “We have finalised a comprehensive action plan in March, which includes information, education and communication material for people, including students. From April 1, mosquito-breeding checkers started visiting houses, commercial areas and challaning the defaulters,” said Dr. BK Hazarika, medical health officer, South Delhi Municipal Corporation.
Health department officials said that the civic agencies were not the only ones to blame for the spread of disease.. “The trouble is civic agencies can intervene only up to a point, but eventually people need to be proactive for breeding to stop and dengue to not reach epidemic proportions. People need to change their behaviour — how difficult is to not let water collect in and around their house?” said Yogendra Mann, director, press and information at the SDMC.
“We always get cases about a week after a spell, and if the showers continue, there may be a spurt in cases from next week,” says Dr Srikant Sharma, consultant, medicine department, Moolchand Hospital.