Police officers stand guard at the India Gate monument shrouded in smog in New Delhi, India (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Judiciary Doing Local Bodies’ Statutory Duty As They Don’t, Delhi High Court  Says

The Delhi High Court said that the local bodies are not performing their statutory duty like cleaning of drains and preventing falling of trees, forcing the judiciary to do that job as well.

The observation by a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar came while hearing a public interest litigation alleging lack of proper facilities for the discharge of sewage and disposal of garbage dumped by residents of a slum in Civil Lines area of North Delhi.

“If you (local authorities) had done your statutory duty, we could have done our statutory duty. But we are doing your statutory duty,” the bench said.

The court issued a notice to the Centre, the Delhi government, its departments of forest and environment, the police, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) and sought their replies by March 7.

The PIL by a lawyer who resides in the area near the slum also alleged that the residents of the Jhuggi Jhopri (JJ) colony are illegally felling trees, openly defecating and poaching animals in a nearby vacant forested land at Khyber Paas in the Civil Lines area.

Petitioner Sanjucta Kabasi claimed that the activities of the slum residents are harmful to public health apart from causing harm to flora and fauna of the area.

She sought imposition of hefty fines on the local authorities – DPCC, NDMC, police and Delhi Government for not taking any action despite the repeated complaints made by her regarding the problems raised in the petition.

She also sought directions to the DUSIB to relocate and resettle the slum cluster apart from action against the residents of the colony.

While seeking the response of the authorities, the court also directed the forest department of the Delhi government to ensure there is no illegal or unauthorised felling of trees in the area.