In September last year, parents of a seven-year-old boy named Avinash ran from hospital to hospital, trying in vain to save their dying child. They begged everyone to admit their child, who was suffering from dengue, but by the time someone consented to treat their son, it was too late.
The parents, not able to cope with their loss, committed suicide by jumping off a four-storeyed building in south Delhi’s Lado Sarai.
Following a Times of India report, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) passed an order on 16 September, 2015 to treat the case as a suo motu Public Interest Litigation (PIL).
The petition came up for hearing on 4 October. After hearing from all the parties in the case – CU Singh, senior counsel appearing on behalf of the government of Delhi, the Solicitor General appearing for the government of Delhi, the Amicus Curiae – the court held that “as all the parties have expressed the view that everybody would like to co-operate for the benefit of the people of Delhi. In our opinion, for the general interest of the people of Delhi and considering the fact that a large number of people are affected by dengue and chikungunya, it would be appropriate if a meeting is convened by the Lieutenant Governor on 5 October, 2016 at 2 pm.”
The order further read, “The participants should resolve issues relating to the better management of the problems faced by the people of Delhi due to dengue and chikungunya – and other issues, if so advised. The interests of the people of Delhi are paramount.”
According to the 4 October order, the Solicitor General stated that he will request the chief secretary of the government of Delhi to convey this to the Lieutenant Governor and the participants in the meeting will be: the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal; Health Minister Satyendra Kumar Jain; Dr Puneet Kumar Goel, commissioner of South Delhi Municipal Corporation; Mohanjeet Singh, commissioner of East Delhi Municipal Corporation; PK Gupta, commissioner of North Delhi Municipal Corporation; Naresh Kumar, chairman of the New Delhi Municipal Corporation; Mangu Singh, chairman of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation; AK Puthia, general manager of the Northern Railway; KK Sharma, chief secretary of Delhi; CK Mishra, union health secretary; Uday Pratap Singh, the vice-chairman of the Delhi Development Authority and B Reddy Sankar Babu, chief executive officer of the Delhi Cantonment Board.
Further, it was agreed that the Amicus Curiae will also be present in the meeting and the L-G will be assisted by an officer of his choice in the meeting.
The meeting, however, did not bear any results as reflected in the 6 October order of the apex court when the petition was called on for hearing again. The apex court in its order observed, “We have gone through the minutes of the meeting held yesterday and are quite disappointed with the outcome.”
The order states that the Solicitor General informed that another meeting will be convened on Thursday by the Lieutenant Governor at 5.30 pm with the amicus and the officers mentioned in the order dated 4 October, 2016. However, as stated in the order, senior counsel CU Singh stated that the chief minister is unwell and perhaps may not be able to attend the meeting. Also, that the Delhi Development Authority does not have any incumbent vice-chairman and that the chief secretary, KK Sharma, is on leave and in their place other persons in charge would participate in the meeting.
The court also made an important observation that “it was pointed out to us by learned amicus on 4 October, 2016 that there is a huge amount of garbage lying in and around the city and that is also one of the reasons for vector-borne diseases.”
“The participants will discuss effective ways to have the garbage cleared so that standards of sanitation and hygiene are maintained in and around Delhi,” the court stated in its order.
It further states that “we expect the participants to keep the interests of the people of Delhi in mind and look out at the entire exercise in a positive manner and think about the future rather than the past. We also expect the efforts to be consultative, collaborative and cooperative.”
As on 30 August, as reported by PTI, a massive surge in vector-borne diseases in the national capital was observed. Chikungunya and dengue cases in the city shot up to 423 and 487 respectively. According to the report released by the civic authorities, 423 chikungunya cases were diagnosed in Delhi till 27 August, while 368 out of the 487 dengue cases were recorded in August.
The PIL that is being heard by the apex court is a reminder of the sad episode involving Avinash’s parents and stands testament to the fact that vector-borne diseases, when not tackled sensitively, can shatter lives. In this context, the role of civic authorities becomes most important and any lethargy on their part is sure to create ‘disappointments’.