Delhi: Rs 15 lakh and Rs 10 lakh to kin of 2 who died when mountain of shame crashed
NEW DELHI: Five years after two persons died when fifty tonnes of garbage crashed down the 16-storey-high mountain of waste in east Delhi's Ghazipur, a city court underlined it was "negligent conduct" of the municipal corporation and Delhi government in maintaining the landfill there that eventually caused the two deaths.
On Friday, additional district judge Vijay Kumar Jha directed East Delhi Municipal Corporation and Delhi government to pay a compensation of Rs 15 lakh and Rs 10 lakh, respectively, to the families of Gautam and Kumari.
On September 1, 2017, after several days of rain, the garbage mound at the landfill had collapsed, in the process sweeping vehicles and seven people into the Kondli canal and causing the deaths of Abhishek Gautam and Raj Kumari.
Passing the order in both cases, the court said that "on the balance of probability", the two deaths appeared to have been "caused because of the negligent conduct of the defendants in maintaining the landfill".
A defence witness for EDMC had deposed that the garbage had collapsed due to technical and scientific reasons and it was a natural accident for which no person was responsible. To this, the court said that EDMC, by putting up such depositions, was trying to avoid the liability for the deaths on the ground and arguing that the landfill crash had occurred because of natural circumstances and that it was an act of god for which no person was responsible.
"The defendant no. 2 (EDMC) could have collected garbage at the landfill only up to 20-25 metres, whereas admittedly the height of the garbage was 60-65 metres. Whatever may be the explanation for this, it cannot be denied that if the permission was given to the defendant no. 2 to collect the garbage up to 20-25 metres, there must have been some reason for this and the logical reason appears to be that above that height to which the permission was granted to collect the garbage, it would be dangerous," the court observed.
The court noted that the defence witness had further stated that collection of garbage beyond the permitted capacity was due to compelling circumstances because an alternative site for disposal of the garbage despite many directions from different courts over 24 years hadn't been provided. If true, the court said, this reflected the "administrative apathy, making the officials and department concerned liable for any untoward incident" because of garbage being collected at the Ghazipur landfill beyond the permitted capacity.
Advocate Hitesh Bhardwaj, appearing for the two families, had sought compensation on the ground that the landfill hadn't been properly maintained by EDMC, resulting in the death of Gautam and Kumari.
With respect to the height of the mound, EDMC submitted that it had been demanding an alternative site from the landowning agency, Delhi Development Authority, for two decades to set up a waste management facility, but none had been made available to the civic body despite various directions by the courts, forcing EDMC to continue dump daily waste at the Ghazipur landfill.
But the court stated that, even assuming that the incident September 2017 at the landfill occurred because of incessant rain for 2-4 days or due to natural or circumstantial reasons for which no person was responsible, the height of the garbage heap showed that it was not the "natural use of the land" at the landfill and this was proved by the loss of lives of the plaintiffs.