Taking note of Delhi’s air quality slipping to the severe category, Supreme Court has warned and given 24 hours ultimatum to the Delhi government, Centre, and neighbouring states to come up with effective measures against the worsening Delhi pollution.
The air quality deteriorated even more on Thursday slipping to the “severe” category with the AQI clocking at 500. This is the fourth week that the court heard arguments over the air pollution in the national capital and nearby cities.
“Delhi air pollution has increased despite the government claims. We feel that nothing is happening and the pollution keeps increasing… only time is being wasted,” stated the three judge bench comprising CJI NV Ramana, Justice DY Chandrachud, and Justice Surya Kant.
The bench expressed its disappointment over the way Commission for Air Quality Management measures and at the fact that it has not identified the sources of pollution yet.
The court noted that the directions of the Commission are not implemented at ground level, therefore, it might create a ‘task force’ to monitor the same. It was noted that the Commission has not been given powers by the statute to enforce its directions.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Delhi government sought one day to have a discussion with highest authority and come up with some additional measures to deal with the crises.
“We Give You 24 Hours”
“Mr Mehta, we expect a serious real action, if you can’t do tomorrow we are going to do. We are giving you 24 hours,” said CJI Ramana.
He went on to ask,” Where is the problem? Why is the pollution not coming down? We have been passing directions. You have been making loud statements. The problem of stubble burning is also not there now. So why has it not come down?”
SG Mehta termed vehicular and industrial emissions as the main sources when Justice Chandrachud asked, “Which are the major sources of pollution today according to the Commission?”
“We Can’t Infuse Creativity In Your Bureaucracy”
CJI Ramana questioned the Commission’s performance stating, “What is the Commission doing?In a situation of emergency, you’ve to work quickly and with creativity. What’s point of 20-30 member committee? Another burden on state exchequer. We’ve to do something extraordinary otherwise it won’t work. We can’t infuse creativity in your bureaucracy.”
“We think that nothing is happening as pollution level is increasing. We think that we are wasting our time. If courts, government everyone is doing so much, why is pollution increasing? Anyone will ask this. What’s going wrong then?” CJI said.
SC Pulls Up Delhi Govt Over School Reopening
The Supreme Court also slammed the Delhi government for reopening the schools amid such alarming pollution.
“One thing you told was schools are closed. But schools are now open. Small children have to go in morning in fog. There’s no respect. You say there is work from home option. So elders will stay at home and children will go to school. We will appoint somebody to administer your government,” CJI said.
To which Lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Delhi government, replied that there is a lot of debate about school reopening and learning loss. He added that the government is prepared to follow any directions the court might pass.
“Don’t use our shoulder. You are Government so you have to take action. You are saying whoever wants to come, come, you want to stay at home stay. If you give option, everyone will come, who wants to stay at home. We also have children, grandchildren. You have to take a call. Don’t tell us we have to take a call,” CJI Ramana said.
Ban On Construction Activities Should Be Uniform, Central Vista Cannot Be Exempted
Advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the petitioner, submitted before the apex court that there might be a need to even the AQI norms for Delhi, considering that it is a land-locked city. Therefore, the norms applicable for a coastal city like Mumbai can’t be applied to Delhi.
He also asked the bench to create a task force which could be led by retired Supreme Court judge Justice RF Nariman.
“Today the level is 500 AQI and it is serious and that means someone is flouting this. All these directions like water sprinklers etc are working or not has to be seen like a proper flying squad,” said Singh.
He also urged the court to issue directions under which the ban on construction can be uniform and there cannot be exemption to activities at Central Vista.
The bench will hear the matter tomorrow again.