Officials to pay in case of dengue death: HC

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NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Wednesday warned civic authorities it will order stringent penal action against senior officials if there are deaths in the capital due to dengue and chikungunya.

Anguished that despite several key directions over lack of cleanliness and hygiene in parts of Delhi, garbage has only increased, the court cautioned the city will die if the situation does not improve.

A bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar slammed the corporations and authorities for lack of “sensitivity” towards health and entitlement of citizens to a clean environment.

The bench made it clear that criminal proceedings may be initiated if anyone dies or gets infected by vector-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.

“We see no reason as to why in event of any death caused by vector-borne diseases, persons heading the concerned departments in Union government, Delhi government and municipal bodies not be charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and those who are infected and does not result into a death be charged with section 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of IPC as well as other penal provisions,” it said.

At least 12 cases of dengue have been reported in Delhi till April 7, according to a municipal report released on Monday, indicating an early spread of the vector-borne disease.

“No human or animal should be co-existing with garbage,” it said, adding: “This is 21st Century India, you can’t make people of Delhi live like this.”

It also observed that every time the court calls senior officials before it, some improvement happens but thereafter nothing happens and “we are back to square one”.

The bench took judicial notice of Central government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched in 2015 and said collection of garbage in Delhi is equally important in any such mission and directed that a copy of its order be sent to the secretaries of central government ministries, departments of Delhi government, Delhi Cantonment Board, New Delhi Municipal Council, commissioners of all the three municipal corporations and the DDA, and asked them to file action taken reports.

Meanwhile the commissioners of EDMC, SDMC and north corporataion, who were present during the hearing, assured HC they will take immediate action. However, north corporation told the bench they have been unable to pay salaries of safai karamcharis for the past two months due to which the staffers were on strike, resulting in the worsening of the situation.

But HC said such a state of affairs in the capital of India “cannot be tolerated.”

“Be it want of salaries of staff or collection or disposal of solid waste and cleanliness of the city, it is not only a statutory duty of the authorities but their obligation,” it said.

The court was hearing two PILs filed by advocates Arpit Bhargava and Gauri Grover seeking directions to the authorities to take steps to prevent the spread of vector-borne diseases in the national capital. It granted the corporations a last opportunity to take immediate steps and listed the matter for further hearing on April 24.

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