‘Giving 24 hours or we will give order’: SC raps Delhi govt over rising air pollution levels

Making clear its displeasure about steps being taken to tackle rising air pollution in the national capital, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre and Delhi government to come up with some concrete action plan by Friday failing which the court warned that it will be forced to intervene. The bench said it is of the opinion that “we are unable to contribute anything to control pollution….”.

“We will take it up tomorrow morning…Please respond by then. Otherwise don’t force us…We expect serious action. If you can’t, we will do it. If you want an order, we will give you an order. We will appoint someone to administer your government,” Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said while hearing a petition seeking steps to control the pollution.

The bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant said the Aam Aadmi Party government had made various assurances such as work from home, lockdown, and closure of schools and colleges in the previous hearings. However, despite these assurances, the children were are going to school while elders are working from home.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Delhi government, said the schools were reopened as experts said there was a learning loss for students due to sitting at home. He said they had been reopened with the conditions that only those who want to go need to go.

But the bench did not appear enthused and said: “Don’t use our shoulders to fire..If you say only those who want to come should come, then all will. Who will want to sit at home now”.

Schools in the national capital reopened once again from Monday (November 29) for all classes. The government had shut all schools in the city earlier in November due to a spike in air pollution levels.

The court also came down heavily on the government over its ‘Red Light On, Gaadi Off’ campaign to curb vehicular pollution, saying it was nothing but a popular slogan. “Poor young boys standing in the middle of the road with banners, who is taking care of their health? Again, we’ve to say, other than a popular slogan, what else is it?”

Singhvi referred to the affidavit and said the government had taken various measures. ” This is another cause of pollution, so many affidavits daily,” the bench then remarked.

“We are not opposition leaders, we are concerned about the implementation of our orders”, said the CJI as Singhvi attempted to explain the NCT government’s response to the situation.

“Aas a layman, I’m asking this…if all these steps are being implemented, then why are pollution levels going up? Stubble burning…which was the major reason according to Delhi government and many others have come down… Then where is this (pollution) coming from?” the CJI asked.

The bench then questioned the Centre about what the ‘Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas’ with as many as 28 members was doing.

Justice Chandrahud pointed out that the Commission does not have any powers to enforce its orders except for a clause enabling imposing of fine. He pointed out that as stated by the court in the previous hearing, a fine alone was not a solution.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Centre, said it’s for the state government to implement the directions of the Commission. The SG added that he will check with the minister on what can be done about this and appraise the court.

At this, the CJI said “in the chamber itself, we thought we should do something extraordinary. We cannot induce creativity in your bureaucracy. It’s up to them…”

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