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Supreme Court of India
Almitra H. Patel And Anr. … vs Union Of India And Ors. .. … on 15 February, 2000
Author: Kirpal
Bench: M.B.Shah, B.N.Kirpal, D.P.Mohapatro



DATE OF JUDGMENT:	15/02/2000

M.B.Shah, B.N.Kirpal, D.P.Mohapatro



More in anguish, than out of anger, this Court nearly
four years ago in Dr. B.L. Wadhera Vs. Union of India and
Ors. [(1996) 2 SCC 594 at 595] observed: ?Historic city of
Delhi the capital of India is one of the most polluted
cities in the world. The authorities, responsible for
pollution control and environment protection, have not been
able to provide clean and healthy environment to the
residents of Delhi. The ambient air is so much polluted
that it is difficult to breathe. More and more Delhities
are suffering from respiratory diseases and throat
infections. River Yamuna the main source of drinking
water supply is the free dumping place for untreated
sewage and industrial waste. Apart from air and water
pollution, the city is virtually an open dustbin. Garbage
strewn all over Delhi is a common sight. The Municipal
Corporation of Delhi (the MCD) constituted under the Delhi
Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 (Delhi Act) and the New
Delhi Municipal Council (the NDMC) constituted under the New
Delhi Municipal Council Act, 1994 (New Delhi Act) are wholly
remiss in the discharge of their duties under law. It is no
doubt correct that rapid industrial development,
urbanisation and regular flow of persons from rural to urban
areas have made major contribution towards environmental
degradation but at the same time the authorities entrusted
with the work of pollution control cannot be permitted to
sit back with folded hands on the pretext that they have no
financial or other means to control pollution and protect
the environment. The Court then proceeded to issue 14
directions in an effort to see that the capital of the
biggest democracy in the world is not branded as being one
of the most polluted cities in the world.

It is indeed unfortunate that despite more than
sufficient time having elapsed the condition of Delhi has
not improved. The citizens of Delhi increasingly suffer
from respiratory and other diseases, the river Yamuna is
highly polluted and garbage and untreated domestic and
industrial waste is being either freely dumped into the said
river or is left on open land, large volume of which remains

The present writ petition is concerned with the
question of solid waste disposal. By order dated 16th
January, 1998 this Court constituted a Committee headed by
Mr. Asim Burmon to look into all aspects of urban solid
waste management and in particular to the following four

1. Examine the existing practices and to suggest
hygienic processing and waste disposal practices and proven
technologies on the basis of economic feasibility and safety
which the Corporations/Government may directly or indirectly
adopt or sponsor.

2. Examine and suggest ways to improve conditions in
the formal and informal sector for promoting eco-friendly
sorting, collection, transportation, disposal, recycling and

3. To review Municipal bye-laws and the powers of
local bodies and regional planning authorities and suggest
necessary modifications to ensure effective budgeting,
financing, administration, monitoring and compliance.

4. Examine and formulate standards and regulations
for management of urban solid waste, and set time frame
within which the authorities shall be bound to implement the

After a preliminary and then the final report of the
said committee was received notices were issued to all the
States who were required to file their responses to the
report of the committee. None of the States really opposed
the recommendations made by the committee and it is noticed
that the responses of the States were in fact positive.
Keeping the aforesaid report in mind, Management of
Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 1999
were notified by the Central Government which, as the
heading itself suggests, deals with the question as to how
the solid waste in the cities is to be managed and handled.

In this Courts order dated 15th October, 1999 it was
indicated that we proposed to take up the question of
cleaning of four metropolitan cities, namely, Mumbai,
Chennai, Calcutta and Delhi as also the city of Bangalore.

We have first heard counsel appearing on behalf of the
National Capital Territory of Delhi in connection with the
management and handling of the solid waste. It was in this
connection that our attention was drawn to the 14 directions
issued by this Court in Dr. B.L. Wadheras case [supra].
It is indeed unfortunate that till today the said directions
have not been complied with. When this was put to the
learned counsel appearing for Delhi as to why the said
directions were not complied with, there was, in effect, no
satisfactory answer. For example, sites for landfill have
not been identified and handed over to the MCD nor have four
additional compost plant been constructed though specific
direction in this regard was issued in Dr. B.L. Wadheras
case. The Court also approved of the experimental scheme
placed before it by the MCD where-under certain localities
had been selected for distribution of polythene bags and
collection of garbage from door to door but no effective
progress appears to have been made in this regard. These
are but a few examples which show non-compliance of the
directions issued.

We are not oblivious of the fact that in a large city
like Delhi where the floating population which comes in
every day is not very small, keeping the city clean is
indeed a daunting task. Just because the work involved is
difficult cannot be a reason for lack of initiative or
inaction on the part of the authorities concerned.

We are informed that one of the local authorities,
namely, MCD itself employ about forty thousand safai
karamcharis. This is in addition to the staff employed by
other local bodies, namely, the NDMC and the Cantonment
Board. Like all government and municipal employees these
karamcharis are expected to work for the stipulated period
of time, namely, eight hours a day. It was submitted by Mr.
Dushyant Dave, learned Amicus Curiae that the insanitory
conditions of different areas of Delhi does not in any way
show that requisite effort has been put in or the required
time spent in the cleaning operations which are supposed to
be carried out by this large workforce. These employees are
more invisible than visible. There appears to be a complete
lack of accountability, at all levels of the Corporation, in
this behalf.

Keeping Delhi clean is not an easy task but then it is
not an impossible one either. What is required is
initiative, selfless zeal and dedication and professional
pride, elements which are sadly lacking here.

Surat had for time immemorial been known to be one of
the dirtiest cities in the country. The plague there in
1995 was the result of the filth which had accumulated
therein. Nevertheless the effort of one man, namely, the
Municipal Commissioner, who worked in the field and in the
office with dedication resulted in not only eradicating the
plague and cleaning up Surat but gave the city of Surat the
distinction of being the second most clean city in the whole
of India. The people of Surat who threw garbage all around
were so affected by the tireless effort of one person that
they themselves have now become zealous guardians of their
new found clean city of Surat. This shows what one man as a
head of the organisation, like Municipal Corporation, with
selfless zeal, initiative and dedication and without
allowing any outside interference can achieve by motivating
his employees to clean up the city while acting fairly,
justly and efficiently within the four corners of the law.

In Delhi which is the capital of the country and which
should be its show piece no effective initiative of any kind
has been taken by the numerous governmental agencies
operating here in cleaning up the city. As a result thereof
the Court had in Dr. B.L Wadheras case, per force, to step
in because of the non- performance or non-implementation of
the law by the municipal authorities. The law, inter alia,
makes it obligatory on them to discharge their municipal
functions and at least prevent filth and garbage from lying
strewn at different public places causing hazard to public

The local authorities are constituted for providing
services to the citizens not merely to provide employment
to a few of its inhabitants. Tolerating filth, while not
taking action against the lethargic and inefficient
workforce for fear of annoying them, is un-understandable
and impermissible. Non-accountability has possibly led to
lack of effort on the part of the employees concerned. They
are perhaps sanguine in their belief that non- performance
is not frowned upon by the Government or by the heads of the
organisations and no harm will befall them.

Domestic garbage and sewage is a large contributor of
solid waste. The drainage system in a city is intended to
cope and deal with household effluent. This is so in a
planned city. But when a large number of inhabitants live
in unauthorised colonies, with no proper means of dealing
with the domestic effluents, or in slums with no care for
hygiene the problem becomes more complex.

Establishment or creating of slums, it seems, appears
to be good business and is well organised. The number of
slums has multiplied in the last few years by geometrical
proportion. Large areas of public land, in this way, are
usurped for private use free of cost. It is difficult to
believe that this can happen in the capital of the country
without passive or active connivance of the land owning
agencies and/or the municipal authorities. The promise of
free land, at the taxpayers cost, in place of a jhuggi, is
a proposal which attracts more land grabbers. Rewarding an
encroacher on public land with free alternate site is like
giving a reward to a pickpocket. The department of slum
clearance does not seem to have cleared any slum despite
it’s being in existence for decades. In fact more and more
slums are coming into existence. Instead of Slum
Clearance there is Slum Creation in Delhi. This in turn
gives rise to domestic waste being strewn on open land in
and around the slums. This can best be controlled at least,
in the first instance, by preventing the growth of slums.
The authorities must realise that there is a limit to which
the population of a city can be increased, without enlarging
its size. In other words the density of population per
square kilometer cannot be allowed to increase beyond the
sustainable limit. Creation of slums resulting in increase
in density has to be prevented. What the slum clearance
department has to show, however, does not seem to be
visible. It is the garbage and solid waste generated by
these slums which require to be dealt with most
expeditiously and on the basis of priority.

It was suggested by the learned Amicus Curiae that we
should issue various directions to the MCD and the NDMC
including direction relating to the manner in which the
solid waste generated in Delhi is to be handled. We believe
it is not for this Court to direct as to how the municipal
authorities should carry out their functions and resolve
difficulties in regard to the management of solid waste.
The Court, in fact, is ill equipped to do so. Without doubt
the Governmental agencies including the local authorities
have all the powers of the State to take action and ensure
that the city remains clean. They have only to wake up and
act. The Court should, however, direct that the local
authorities, Government and all statutory authorities must
discharge their statutory duties and obligations in keeping
the city at least reasonably clean. We propose to do so now
by issuing appropriate directions.

Before we pass the necessary orders some difficulties
are stated to have been encountered in implementing some of
the directions in Dr. B.L. Wadheras case (supra) which
need to be dealt with.

One of the difficulties pointed out before us was that
even though the MCD and the NDMC Acts permit action being
taken, inter alia, against persons who litter the city
sufficient number of judicial magistrates are not available
for ensuring proper enforcement of the provisions of the
said Acts. But the shortage of judicial magistrates can be
easily overcome by the Government appointing suitable
persons as Executive Magistrates under Section 20 or Special
Executive Magistrates under Section 21 of the Code of
Criminal Procedure who can be empowered to deal with such
minor offences under the provisions of the MCD and NDMC
Acts. There are large number of retired government
officials and ex-defence officers who have held responsible
posts and are living in Delhi who, we are sure, will be
willing to act as such Magistrates. Delhi is divided into a
number of Municipal wards and for every ward one or more
Executive Magistrate or Special Executive Magistrate can
easily be appointed. This will also take some burden of the

The counsel for the MCD has submitted that despite
orders having been passed in Dr. B.L. Wadehras case
[supra] sufficient number of sites for landfills have
neither been identified nor handed over to it. One of the
reasons for the sites not being made available, it was
stated, was that land owning agencies like the DDA or the
Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi are
demanding market value of the land of more than rupees forty
lacs per acre before the land can be transferred to MCD.
Keeping Delhi clean is a governmental function. There are
more than one agencies that administer Delhi, namely, Union
of India through Ministry of Urban Development, Government
of National Capital Territory of Delhi, Commissioner of MCD,
Chairman, NDMC, Cantonment Board and the DDA. It is the
duty of all concerned to see that landfill sites are
provided in the interest of public health. Providing of
landfill sites is not a commercial venture, which is being
undertaken by the MCD. It is as much the duty of the MCD as
that of other authorities enumerated above to see that
sufficient sites for landfills to meet the requirement of
Delhi for next twenty years are provided. Not providing the
same because the MCD is unable to pay an exorbitant amount
is un-understandable. Landfill site has to be provided and
it is wholly immaterial which Governmental agency or the
local authority has to pay the price for it. As for nearly
four years since the direction was issued in Dr. B.L.
Wadheras case (supra) this problem has not been solved it
has now become necessary for this Court to issue appropriate
directions in this behalf, which we shall presently do.

One of the important directions issued in Dr. B.L.
Wadheras case was regarding the construction of compost
plants. In addition to the compost plant at Okhla, which
was expected to be in operation by 1st June, 1996, four
additional compost plants were to be constructed, as
recommended by Jagmohan Committee. This has not happened
and even land for sufficient number of compost plants has
not been identified or handed over. It has, therefore,
become necessary to issue time-bound directions in this

Uptill now no action has been taken against people who
spread litter. Discipline amongst people in this behalf has
to be inculcated and the guilty punished. Appropriate
orders in this behalf are proposed to be issued including
the appointment of Magistrates under Section 20 and/or
Section 21 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, inter alia, to
deal with such cases.


In addition to and not in derogation of the orders
passed by this Court in Dr. B.L. Wadheras case (supra),
we order as follows:

1. We direct the Municipal Corporation of Delhi
through the Commissioner, NDMC through its Chairman and the
Cantonment Board through its Executive Officer and all other
concerned officials including Sanitation
Superintendents/Chief Sanitary Inspectors/Sanitary
Inspectors/Assistant Sanitary Inspectors/Sanitary
Guides/Medical Officers to ensure that the relevant
provisions of the DMC Act, 1957, New Delhi Municipal Council
Act, 1994 and the Cantonments Act, 1924 relating to
sanitation and public health prohibiting accumulation of any
rubbish, filth, garbage or other polluted obnoxious matters
in any premises and/or prohibiting any person from
depositing the same in any street or public place shall be
scrupulously complied. 2. We direct that the streets,
public premises such as parks etc. shall be surface cleaned
on daily basis, including on Sundays and public holidays.

3. We direct and authorise the MCD, NDMC and other
statutory authorities through competent officers, as may be
designated by them, (but not lower than in the rank of
Sanitary Superintendent or equivalent post) to levy and
recover charges and costs from any person littering or
violating provisions of the diverse Acts, bye-laws and
Regulations relating to sanitation and health for violating
the directions being issued herein. For this purpose the
Commissioner, MCD, Chairman, NDMC and other concerned heads
of sanitary authorities will prepare and publish for the
information of public at large the scale of such
charges/costs as may be levied and recovered in respect of
the diverse acts of commission/omission. The charges/costs
will be recoverable on the spot by such designated officers
from any person found littering or throwing rubbish and
causing nuisance so as to affect sanitation and public
health. The Commissioner, MCD and Chairman, NDMC and other
authorities may frame and publish such schemes as may be
necessary to ensure compliance of these directions
forthwith. Till the scheme is framed and published, the
authorities named above would recover Rs.50/- as charges and
costs from any person littering or violating provisions of
the Municipal Corporation Act, Bye-laws and Regulations
relating to sanitation and health. This part be published
and implemented at the earliest through concerned Sanitary
Inspectors. 4. We direct the MCD through the Commissioner,
NDMC through its Chairman and other statutory authorities
through their respective heads to ensure proper and
scientific disposal of waste in a manner so as to subserve
the common good. In this connection they shall endeavour to
comply with the suggestions and directions contained in the
report prepared by the Asim Burmon Committee. 5. We direct
that sites for land fills will be identified bearing in mind
the requirement of Delhi for the next twenty years within a
period of four weeks from today by the exercise jointly
conducted by Union of India through the Ministry of Urban
Development, Government of National Capital Territory of
Delhi, Commissioner, MCD and Chairman, NDMC and other heads
of statutory authorities like the DDA etc. These sites will
be identified keeping in mind the environmental
considerations and in identifying the same Central Pollution
Control Boards advice will be taken into consideration.
The sites so identified shall be handed over to the MCD
and/or NDMC within two weeks of the identification, free
from all encumbrances and without MCD or the NDMC having to
make any payment in respect thereof. 6. We direct Union of
India through the Ministry of Urban Development, Government
of National Capital Territory of Delhi, Commissioner of MCD,
Chairman NDMC and other statutory authorities like DDA and
Railways to take appropriate steps for preventing any fresh
encroachment or unauthorised occupation of public land for
the purpose of dwelling resulting in creation of a slum.
Further appropriate steps be taken to improve the sanitation
in the existing slums till they are removed and the land
reclaimed. 7. We further direct Union of India through
Ministry of Urban Development, Government of National
Capital Territory of Delhi, Commissioner MCD, Chairman NDMC
and other statutory authorities like DDA etc. to identify
and make available to the MCD and NDMC within four weeks
from today sites for setting up compost plants. Initially
considering the extent of solid waste, which is required to
be treated by compost plants, the number of sites which
should be made available will be eight. Such sites shall be
handed over to the MCD/NDMC free of cost and free from all
encumbrances within two weeks of identification. MCD and
NDMC shall thereupon take appropriate steps to have the
compost plants/processing plants established or caused to be
established and to be in operation by 30th September, 2000.

8. We direct the MCD, NDMC and other statutory authorities
concerned with sanitation and public health to regularly
publish the names of concerned Superintendents of Sanitation
and such equivalent officers who are responsible for
cleaning Delhi who can be approached for any
complaint/grievance by the citizens of Delhi together with
their latest office and residential telephone numbers and
addresses. 9. We direct the Government of National Capital
Territory of Delhi to appoint Magistrates under Section 20
and/or Section 21 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for each
Board/Circle/Ward for ensuring compliance of the provisions
of the MCD and NDMC Acts and to try the offences specified
therefor in relation to littering and causing nuisance,
sanitation and public health. These appointments shall be
made within a period six weeks from today in conformity with
the reasons contained in this order. 10. All the concerned
authorities will file compliance reports of these directions
within eight weeks from today. The Central Pollution
Control Board will also file within the same time an
affidavit indicating to what extent the directions issued
have been complied with.

It is needless to say that the violation of the
directions issued by this Court shall be viewed seriously.

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