The High Court of Delhi on Friday issued show cause notices to the Commissioners of all three wings of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), seeking their response on why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them.
The Bench observed that in an attempt to secure the right to shelter under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution by protecting illegal structures, the authorities were ignoring the right to a clean and healthy environment, which is also a facet of Article 21.
Citing several judgments delivered by the Apex Court, the Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar therefore opined, “The acts and omissions of the respondents which have been brought out in the two CDs, which have been taken on record, would show complete violation of statutory provisions, judgments of the Supreme Court as well as of this Court. These acts and omissions are in complete breach of the rights of the citizens of Delhi under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. These are also in breach of the mandate of Delhi Municipal Corporation Act as well as other civic laws. The respondents have failed to carry out the duties cast on them by Article 48A of the Constitution of India.”
The Court was hearing a Petition filed by Ms. Gauri Grover, who had relied on a programme called “Ghanti Bajao” which was telecast by the ABP news channel on 30 May. The programme had highlighted several lapses in the manner with which East Delhi Municipal Corporation has been undertaking the removal of garbage from the areas which are under its control. The programme had further brought to the fore the issue of inadequacy of equipments such as brooms, proper uniforms in the nature of footwear, protective clothing, etc. for cleaning gutters; payment of wages; lack of appropriate machines, etc for garbage removal as well as lack of funds by the MCD.
The Court had then, on 31 May, appointed ABP news reporter Mr. Ankit Gupta as Local Commissioner to conduct inspections and place before the Court the position regarding the garbage removal and disposal in Delhi.
It was now represented with the follow up report filed by Mr. Gupta. Analysing the footage, the Court noted that other than in the Central District areas, no effort is being made towards proper garbage collection and disposal by the authorities. The footage had further brought to the fore the fact that colonies were being overcrowded, without increasing the capacity of sewage collection systems or any mechanism for garbage collection or disposal.
The Court then opined that the coverage reveals not just the dismal state of garbage collection and disposal, but also the “inability of the authorities to cope with such basic demands made upon them”.
“We note that ruthlessly, without addressing the requirements of increasing sewage collection capacity; effecting no change in garbage collection or its disposal; no improvement in terms of either capacity or of machinery and on mechanisms; no apparent increase in the amount of water available, no additional facility for parking, etc., unauthorized developments are being permitted by the respondents,” the Court further noted.
It also refused to appreciate the Swachh App which allows citizens to call upon the authorities for garbage clean up. Observing that this was not the job of the citizens, the Court noted, “We are unable to understand as to how this app would be of any use. The garbage which we have seen in the CDs is lying on roadsides stretches over hundreds meters. Dhalaos are overflowing with the garbage. It is shocking that Delhities would have to make phone calls to the authorities to clean such garbage their primary duty.”
The Court thereafter appreciated the assistance rendered by Mr. Ankit Gupta and his team for bringing the issue to light and for discharging the duties given by the Court pro bono. The matter will be now heard on 21 June.