Upset at seeing video footage of garbage piling up on the city roads, the Delhi High Court on Friday issued show cause notice to the Commissioners of East, North and South Municipal Corporations, asking why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against them for defying its order. A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar asked the three Commissioners to remain present in the court on June 21, after noticing “wilful violation and disobedience” of court orders to ensure garbage is collected and disposed of.
The bench said the municipal corporations have reduced the government of India’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ to a “complete nought” by their inaction and apathy. The court’s order came after the video footage of a TV news programme was played in court which showed complete apathy in collection of garbage by the municipal corporations, especially east and north municipal areas.
“The footage is explicit in the fact that no effort has been made in picking of garbage… Dengue, Chikungunya have resurfaced in Delhi even before the advent of the monsoon,” the court observed. The footage showed piles of garbage in different areas in Delhi which had not been picked up by the municipal corporations for over five days. The court said it was forced to take on the Commissioners as they “don’t care about the public but care about saving their own skins”.
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The court also directed that video footage of the ABP news channel programme be sent to the Principal Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office, so that cleaning of garbage in Delhi is taken up on the same war footing as ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’. It also directed that a copy of the video be sent to the Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal so that he can ensure the needful is done.
Noting that Delhi, which once had the largest per capita forests, has been “consciously turned into an urban slum”, the court observed that the “right to clean environment cannot be compromised”. “You need a court order to do your basic duty of picking up the garbage,” the bench told the civic agencies, adding that “somebody has to be made accountable”.
The court also slammed corporations, saying the conversion of residential property for commercial activity as well as setting up of clinics and markets was being permitted without providing for more parking space or increasing the width of the roads. “Consciously and callously without any concern for the environment, rampant conversion for commercial use has been permitted,” said the court.
The court also noted that not a single decision of disciplinary action has been taken by the civic bodies against any of their employees and nor has any citizen been penalised for violating municipal laws. The video, which was played in the courtroom, also highlighted other issues faced by the EDMC workers, including non-payment of salaries and lack of proper shoes, clothing and other equipment for cleaning of drains and garbage.
Upset with wrong information being given to it over collection of garbage, the High Court had on May 31 appointed a TV news reporter as the local Commissioner to inspect various areas in Delhi for piling up of garbage. The High Court had taken suo motu cognisance of the ABP news channel’s report highlighting contradictions in the manner in which the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) was undertaking the task of garbage cleaning in areas under its jurisdiction.
The High Court asked the channel to conduct random inspection on garbage removal and disposal in Delhi and submit a report before June 2. On Friday, the reporter who was appointed local commissioner submitted a new video which showed no improvement in removal of garbage.
The court asked the news channel to continue its inspection. The High Court has also been hearing PILs claiming the government and civic agencies have not taken preventive steps against vector-borne diseases such as Chikungunya and dengue. The government and civic bodies had told the court that they have taken all steps to prevent these diseases.