Don’t fight wars when citizens’ health is at stake: HC to govt

New Delhi, Feb 27 (PTI)┬áThe Delhi High Court today told the AAP government it can fight its “wars” whichever way it wants, but not with the health of the people, as some municipal bodies alleged they were not getting funds from the Delhi administration to pay their cleaning staff, hospitals and doctors.

The municipal corporations of north and east Delhi told a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar that they needed funds to ensure cleanliness in their areas and had urged the Delhi government for a loan of over Rs 480 crore.

Noting that diseases, especially those like dengue, malaria and chikungunya which are vector-borne, spread due to lack of cleanliness, the bench asked the Delhi government to indicate on the next date the status of the loans sought by the north and east Delhi municipal corporations.

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.

The issue assumes significance as in the first two months of 2018, six cases of dengue, two of malaria and one of chikungunya have already been reported from Delhi.

While hearing the PILs, the court had also looked into the issue of solid waste management and was of the view that garbage and lack of cleanliness contributed to the spread of the vector-borne diseases.

It had, thereafter, ordered framing of waste management bye-laws and on the last date of hearing asked the corporations how these rules were being implemented and what was its impact.

The corporations today told the bench that they have uploaded the bye-laws on their respective web sites and are also imposing fines on those violating these rules. They also said they have collected lakhs of rupees in fines for violation of the sanitary rules and the bye-laws.

The bench, however, said that imposing of fines has to be a “continuous” process as “people only understand penalties” and it may be the only method to change the mind set of the citizens. It told the corporations to work “vigorously” and not wait for the diseases to spread before swinging into action.

The north and east MCDs, however, said they want funds from the Delhi government to pay their cleaning staff, who are at the top of the “pecking order” where disbursement of wages was concerned.

The EDMC’s Commissioner, who was present in court, told the bench that without funds, it cannot pay its employees and most of them have not been paid for two months.

He said the Delhi government was yet to implement the recommendations of the Fourth Delhi Finance Commission.

When the bench asked the Delhi government to consider releasing the loan amounts sought by the north and east MCDs, it said that even it needed funds from the Centre.

To this, the court told the Delhi government lawyer to file a petition if it lacked in funds and added “You can fight your wars whichever way you want, but you cannot fight it with the health of citizens at stake.”

The court had on the last date of hearing also rapped the Delhi government, saying “It is always you (the Delhi government) versus the Centre, the corporations, some statutory authority. It has to be only versus? Can’t you work together”.