New Delhi, Apr 11 (PTI) Anguished over lack of cleanliness and hygiene in parts of Delhi, the high court here said today that the city will die if the situation does not improve as people may have to move out to make room for the increasing garbage.

The court warned authorities of stringent penal action if anyone dies or gets infected by vector-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya. It said if immediate action is not taken by the Centre, the Delhi government or the civic bodies, it will be forced to take strict action against all of them.

At least 12 cases of dengue have been reported in Delhi till April 7, according to a municipal report released on Monday, indicating early spread of the vector-borne disease.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar lamented that there appear to be “no sensitivity” towards health and entitlement of citizens to a clean environment.

The court said it was concerned with citizens’s right to life. “No human or animal should be co-existing with garbage,” it said, adding: “This is 21st Century India, you can’t make people of Delhi live like this.” The bench said it was “high time that those responsible for hygiene and cleanliness are held responsible for their deficiencies”.

“We see no reason as to why in event of any death caused by vector-borne diseases, persons heading the concerned departments in Union of India, Delhi government and municipal bodies be not charge with culpable homicide not amounting to murder and those who are infected and does not result into a death be charged with section 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of IPC as well as other penal provisions,” it said.

It also observed that every time the court calls senior officials before it, some improvement happens but thereafter, nothing happens and “we are back to square one”.

The bench took judicial notice of Central government’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ launched in 2015 and said collection of garbage in Delhi is equally important in any such mission.

The bench said a copy of its order be sent to the secretaries of central government ministries, departments of Delhi government, Delhi Cantonment Board, New Delhi Municipal Council, commissioners of all the three MCDs and the DDA, and asked them to file action taken reports.

The court was today assured by the commissioners of EDMC, SDMC and North MCD, who were present during the hearing, that they will take action.

It granted them a last opportunity to take immediate steps and listed the matter for further hearing on April 24.

Advocate Monika Arora, who appeared for North MCD, said they have been unable to pay salaries of safai karamcharis for the past two months due to which the staffers were on strike, resulting in the worsening of the situation.

While the counsel for EDMC made a similar submission, SDMC’s advocate said there was no strike in south Delhi area.

The court said such a state of affairs in the capital of India “cannot be tolerated”.

“Be it want of salaries of staff or collection or disposal of solid waste and cleanliness of the city, it is not only a statutory duty of the authorities but their obligation,” it said.

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.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.