The municipal corporations have reduced the Swachh Bharat campaign to a “complete nought” by their “inaction and apathy” to clean up the city, the Delhi High Court today said while asking the municipal commissioners why contempt action be not initiated against them.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said the “blatant violation of statutory provisions and court orders” by the trifurcated municipal corporations of Delhi (MCDs) have set the objectives of the Swachh Bharat campaign to a complete nought. It termed as “shocking” that despite the concerns raised by the court, regarding solid waste collection and disposal, in the past and recently on May 31, the corporations “have not moved a single step”.
Delhi, which once had the largest per capita forests, “has been consciously converted into an urban slum”, the court observed and said that as per the provisions of the Delhi Municipal Corporation (DMC) Act, the “prime responsibility for the wilful and contumacious conduct (of the three MCDs) rests in the Commissioners”.
It directed the commissioners to be present before it on the next date of hearing on June 21 and made it clear that no plea for exemption would be entertained. The court said it was passing the orders for the “cause of the city” as “Delhi has to live”.
“Some urgency should have been shown,” the bench also said and added that it was “unfortunate” that even the law laid down by the Supreme Court in the past to provide a clean environment for the people “have fallen on deaf ears”.
“They (corporations) are in complete breach of rights of the citizens under the Constitution apart from the provisions of the DMC Act, civil laws and Constitutional duties,” the court said.
“Apart from the concerns of health, environment and right to life of the citizens of Delhi, we are also concerned over the wilful violation and disobedience of orders of the courts,” it added. The bench in its order further said that the material placed before it “reflects complete apathy and inability” of the MCDs to meet the requirements of the citizens. It said that the corporations’ inaction apart from being contumacious would also have a direct impact on health of the citizens, and an “irreversible effect” on the environment which in turn would raise concerns of global warming.
The court noted that the corporations were “completely ignoring the right to a clean and healthy environment which is also an Article 21 right”. “Right to a clean environment cannot be compromised,” it said while issuing notice to the MCD Commissioners to show cause why contempt of court action be not taken against them.
The court also directed that its orders and the news video reports be placed before the Prime Minister’s Office so that the Swachh Bharat campaign can be implemented in spirit in Delhi. The bench said the orders and video reports be also placed before the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi so that he can “ensure the needful is done” for collection and disposal of solid waste.
It also came down the corporations for “ruthlessly and callously” permitting compounding and regularisation of unplanned and unauthorised colonies without first ensuring increase or improvement in civic amenities like larger and more number of sewage and water lines. It said that 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,” it said. The bench said such conversion could have been considered or permitted if the infrastructure and civic amenities had been increased or improved. “Common sense illustrates that a colony or land meant for say a hundred residents cannot be expected to cope with or cater to thousands, ten thousands or lakhs of people,” it added.
The court further said, “The film (news video) manifests that ruthlessly without increasing capacity of water or sewage lines or improving garbage collection and disposal capacity and without any additional parking, beautiful residential areas are being converted into tens or thousands of flats or units.”
The bench said that existing garbage dumps or ‘dhalaos’ do not have the capacity or space to cope with the garbage generated and the rubbish therefore was flowing on to the roads. “Instead of essential services, roads are overflowing with garbage,” it said adding that due to the lack of increase in the infrastructure and amenities, the authorities are unable to meet the demands made of them. This has resulted in the causes which lead to breeding of mosquitoes never being addressed.
Justice Shankar said he first heard the matter when he became a judge three weeks ago and on that date the corporations had assured they would be taking action on the ground to curb breeding of mosquitoes. However, “no fogging, nothing has been done on the ground till date” and only public awareness campaigns were being run, the judge said. He also said that “it is obvious that the officials will not act for the people, but they will act when their own skins are in danger”.
The court also noted that not a single decision of disciplinary action has been taken by the corporations against any of their employees and nor has any citizen been penalised for violating municipal laws. As the news videos highlighted the lack of uniforms and proper equipment with the MCD workers for collection and removal of garbage, the court directed the corporations to take immediate steps to address the deficiency. It also observed that garbage collection trucks need to go to the colonies more often and that the authorities need to look into getting more land “to park the solid waste” generated by the city.
When the Delhi government and the corporations’ lawyers said that there is a mobile app which would permit citizens to inform the authorities about areas needing cleaning up, the court said people cannot be expected to spend their money to ring them up to tell them to do their job.
The bench said it was “shocking” that the authorities wanted the citizens to use a mobile app to make visible to them the garbage which is “overflowing” from ‘dhalaos’ and “stretching on the road-sides for miles”. The order came after a TV channel’s news video showed that garbage was not being collected and disposed of from several Delhi colonies for days on end.
The video also showed that the silt from de-silting operations was accumulated on road-sides. The issue of lack of solid waste disposal was taken up by the court after it was told that it contributes to breeding of mosquitoes which cause vector borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya. The issue was highlighted during hearing of two PILs seeking directions to the authorities to take steps to prevent such diseases from occurring in Delhi.