Mosquito Breeding: Delhi HC Calls For Increased Fines At Rs 50K And Says Mere Challaning Would Only Lead To Explosion Of Court Cases
In a precise, practical, pragmatic and powerful judgment titled Court On Its Own Motion vs State in W.P. (C) 5569/2021 and W.P. (C) 14790/2021 pronounced as recently as on May 20, 2022, the Delhi High Court has asked the Delhi Government to seriously examine the proposal of imposition of fines for those found guilty of mosquito breeding observing that the quantum of fine should not be limited to Rs 5,000 but should be fixed at Rs 50,000. The Division Bench comprising of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh was of the firm view that the imposition of fines should be examined if a deterrence has to be created in the minds of the people to not allow mosquito breeding in their premises. It must be mentioned here that the Bench had taken suo motu cognizance of the issue of large scale mosquito breeding in the city, resulting in vector borne diseases such as malaria, chikungunya and dengue every year.
To start with, this notable judgment by a Division Bench comprising of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh sets the pitch in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “Mr. Aneja, the learned Amicus has carried out the activity requested of him vide order dated 25.03.2022. After interacting with the officials of the local bodies, he has suggested that the Deputy Health Officer (DHO), who is a qualified MD/ MBBS doctor, for each zone he heads, should be made the officer responsible for enforcement of the common protocol which has been evolved by the Municipal Corporations and other local bodies and authorities in terms of earlier orders. Similarly, for the NDMC and the Delhi Cantonment Board areas, the corresponding officers, namely the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for NDMC, and the Assistant Health Officer for the Delhi Cantonment Board should be made responsible.”
Frankly speaking, the Bench then observes in para 2 that, “The overall responsibility to supervise implementation of the common protocol, it goes without saying, should rest with the Municipal Commissioner who shall, in co-ordination with the DHOs ensure that the protocol evolved is strictly implemented. We direct that the DHOs in the Municipal Corporations; the CMO in NDMC, and; Assistant Health Officer (AHO) in Delhi Cantonment Board shall be personally responsible to implement the common protocol. The Commissioner of the MCD and the Chief Executive Officer of the NDMC and DCB shall be personally responsible to supervise the working of the DHOs, CMO and AHO respectively. Failure to perform their duties by the aforesaid officers shall invite departmental action, as well as for Contempt of Court both individually and jointly.”
As we see, the Bench then mentions in para 3 that, “The common protocol has been placed on record by all the 3 Corporations. Mr. Pande, who appears for the SDMC has referred to the same. Mr. Aneja has also examined the same and his only comment is that the remaining concern is with regard to its actual implementation on the ground.”
Without mincing any words, the Bench then states in para 4 that, “Mr. Pande does not dispute the fact that the ultimate responsibility for prevention of mosquito infestation rests with the Municipal Corporations. He, however, submits that the other local bodies and authorities noticed by us in these proceedings, who have also agreed to the common protocol, should equally cooperate. We direct all the local bodies/ authorities/ departments to strictly comply with, and fulfil their respective obligations as enlisted in the common protocol, which has been evolved in consultation with them and with their consent. They shall all remain bound by the said common protocol. Failure to comply with the same, and lapses in implementation of the common protocol shall be viewed seriously, and the Chief Executive Officers of the other local bodies/ authorities shall be personally held liable for the same.”
Of course, the Bench then notes in para 5 that, “Ms. Popli, who appears for the Delhi Jal Board undertakes to place before this Court, the calendar of activities that the Delhi Jal Board shall undertake to prevent mosquito infestation, since the Delhi Jal Board is managing sewer drains and several water bodies which are also a source of mosquito breeding. Let the same be filed within 4 weeks along with an affidavit.”
As it turned out, the Bench then specifies in para 6 that, “So far as the Irrigation and Flood Control Department of the Government of NCT of Delhi is concerned, Mr. Satyakam has drawn our attention to the tabulation placed on record with regard to the action taken on various aspects. The said Department shall also file on affidavit, the calendar of the activities that they would undertake round the year to prevent mosquito breeding. The same be also filed within 4 weeks.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then quite significantly seeks to point out in para 7 that, “On the aspect of imposition of fine, the stand of the NDMC is that they are mooting a proposal for raising the fine from Rs.500/- to Rs.50,000/-, and also imposition of on the spot fines. So far as the GNCTD is concerned, Mr. Satyakam submits that the proposal to increase the fine from Rs.500 to Rs.5,000/- is under process. We may take note of the fact that the Municipal Corporations had proposed enhancement of fine from Rs.500/- to Rs.50,000/- and also the imposition of on the spot fines. However, the proposal for increase has been limited to only Rs.5,000/-, and on the spot fines is not proposed at all. Mr. Aneja submits, and we entirely agree with him, that the efficacy of the system of imposition of fines as a deterrent would be completely lost, if fines are not imposed on the spot. We may also notice that mere challaning the violators and those found guilty of allowing mosquito breeding in their premises, would only lead to explosion of such cases in the Courts, and adding to the already existing heavy burdens that the subordinate Courts have to deal with.”
Most significantly, the Bench then minces no words to unequivocally hold in para 8 that, “In our view, the GNCTD should seriously examine the proposal for imposition of fines – on the spot, if a deterrence has to be created in the minds of the people to not allow mosquito breeding in their premises. We are also of the view that where institutions are found guilty of such conduct, the quantum of fine should not be limited to merely Rs.5,000/-, and should be fixed at Rs. 50,000/-. The GNCTD shall examine these aspects at the highest level and respond on the next date.”
Be it noted, the Bench then hastens to add in para 9 that, “Mr. Aneja also raised the issue that the Nodal Offices appointed by the public authorities, and the notices to whom notices have been issued by us, are low ranking officers in certain cases. This issue be examined by Mr. Aneja. The local body/ authority/ noticees shall provide a hierarchy of their organisation to Mr. Aneja within the next 2 weeks. We permit Mr. Aneja to place on record all such instances, and the same shall also be shared with the concerned local body/ authority/ noticees, and the said aspect shall be remedied by them before the next date of hearing.”
It is worth noting that the Bench then holds in para 10 that, “Mr. Raja Singh submits that his suggestion to make it mandatory for installation of mosquito nets in buildings should be considered by the DDA. He has today tendered in Court, an application along with several annexures. A copy of the same has been served on the DDA in Court today. We direct the DDA to examine the same and respond to the suggestions made by Mr. Raja Singh before the next date of hearing. It shall be open to Mr. Raja Singh to obtain a complete copy of the digital record of the present proceedings from the Registry.”
Furthermore, the Bench then directs in para 11 that, “A copy of this order be communicated electronically by the Registry to all the party noticed by us in these proceedings for strict compliance.”
Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 12 that, “List on 15.07.2022.”
All said and done, it has to be conceded with grace that the Division Bench of Delhi High Court comprising of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh have most commendably taken the menace of mosquito breeding most seriously. It would be germane to note that the Division Bench of Delhi High Court has not refrained itself from calling on the Delhi Government to most seriously examine the laudable proposal of imposition of fines for those found guilty of mosquito breeding as it dangerously culminates in spreading of many vector borne diseases like dengue, chikungunya and malaria every year. Of course, the Court also very rightly reiterated that a strong deterrence of imposition of fine is definitely needed for people to abide by the law strictly and those found guilty of violating the law should not be left by mere challaning the violators as that would only lead to explosion of such cases in the Courts as we have been seeing also regrettably since last many years thus overburdening the subordinate Courts with huge cases of such kind! The Court also came to the ineluctable conclusion that where institutions are found guilty of such conduct then the fine should not be restricted to just Rs 5000 only but rather raised and fixed at Rs 50,000. Very rightly so! No denying or disputing it!