UNDERLINING THAT “people are dying every hour”, the Supreme Court imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on Health Minister Satyendar Jain for seeking more time to disclose names of officials who he claimed were disobeying his orders with regard to tackling the outbreak of dengue and chikungunya in the capital.
“When people are dying in Delhi every hour, you don’t need 24 hours to file an affidavit,” said a bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice D Y Chandrachud when Jain’s counsel asked for time till Tuesday to file the affidavit along with the names of non-compliant officials.
Last week, the court had taken strong exception to Jain’s allegation that officials were not cooperating and taking responsibility to check the spread of vector-borne diseases, and had asked him to bring the names on record by filing an additional affidavit. However, senior counsel C U Singh, who represented Jain, rued the “short period” he had got to do so and sought more time.
At this, the bench retorted: “Why have you not given the names and evidences on affidavit? You have made very serious allegations against them. You deposit Rs 25,000 by today as cost for not filing the affidavit with legal service authority.”
It added: “We deliberately gave you a short period of time. It is a very serious matter. People are dying of the disease. You had made allegations against the officials but still you did not file an affidavit. You made tall claims. You should have filed it by Saturday.” The court fixed the matter for further hearing on Tuesday.
Later in the day, Jain submitted his additional affidavit in the court, accusing Delhi Health Secretary Chandrakar Bharti of scuttling the AAP government’s plan to deal with the disease outbreak. Jain claimed that Bharti has not been available for interacting with him on several occasions and has “disobeyed request of participating in meetings”.
“It was very clear to me that he believed that the minister was not his competent authority and his competent authority happened to be the Lieutenant Governor. I further state that my colleague and I share this impression that many of the senior officers of the GNCTD are being persuaded to believe that the ministers of the government do not exercise authority but it is the LG who alone is the competent authority,” contended Jain.
He said it was not possible for any department or successful government to function when civil servants bypass the ministerial authority, and claimed that several cabinet proposals relating to health have been “unjustifiably and inexplicably delayed” by Health Secretary Bharti.
Jain added that he was constrained to file the previous affidavit blaming the officials for disobeying him on account of Bharti undermining the legal authority of ministers, while other officials remained hesitant to take decisions without LG’s permission.
The health minister’s affidavit has also raised the question over the GNCTD being represented by the LG and the Health Secretary separately in the apex court, and said only the AAP government and its ministers were competent to argue.
“I request this court to first determine who is in custody of the proceedings… I state that the L-G does not have the carriage of the proceedings of the Government of NCT of Delhi since the government has the council of ministers, presided over by the Chief Minister,” said Jain.