SC dissatisfied with steps taken to mitigate air pollution, calls for immediate response

The Supreme Court Monday directed the Central Government to call for an emergent meeting to discuss the major contributors to pollution, namely, construction activities, industry, power plants and vehicular traffic, and to pass effective orders on these areas of concerns in order to reduce the level of air pollution in the Capital. It also suggested to the central government to allow work from home for its employees.
This came after the apex court expressed its dissatisfaction with the outcome of the meeting held by the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas on Sunday following the Court’s previous order on Saturday.
The Court was of the view that most of the decisions proposed to be taken were in the nature of “long term measures”, though emergency steps were required.
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant also directed the Haryana and Punjab Governments to persuade their farmers to stop stubble burning for two weeks.
After reading the affidavits filed by respondents and after hearing at length, the bench concluded that the major culprits of pollution are construction activity, industry, transport, power and vehicular traffic, apart from stubble burning in some parts. Even though some decisions were purportedly taken by the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas, the bench expressed its dissatisfaction that it has not indicated precisely what steps would be taken to control factors that are causing air pollution.
“So far as stubble burning is concerned, broadly affidavits state that their contribution is not so much except for two months. However, at present, a good amount of stubble burning is taking place in Haryana and Punjab,” the bench added.
During the hearing, Justice Chandrachud pointed out from the affidavit filed by the Centre that industry, dust and transport contribute 70 per cent of the pollution. He added “The cat is out of the bag now” as it is revealed that stubble burning is an insignificant contributor to air pollution.
“We are targeting the insignificant sources of pollution”, Justice Chandrachud added.
Earlier, the Delhi Government filed an affidavit this morning stating that it was willing to impose lockdown, but the decision would be meaningful only if it was implemented across the NCR and neighbouring states. When senior advocate Rahul Mehta sought to mention it before the Court, the CJI remarked “We are not here to pass those orders to you. You speak to NCR states and decide how to control pollution.” In the last hearing, the CJI had suggested two days’ lockdown in the NCR.
When senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, averred that the Mayors of the Municipal Corporations of Delhi can file an affidavit on how many mechanical road sweeping machines are needed to counter road dust pollution, the Chief Justice retorted, “Are you trying to put the blame on municipal corporations? Are you trying to pass the buck?”
Warning the state government of an audit, Justice Surya Kant further said, “These kinds of lame excuses will force us to hold a proper audit of the revenues you are earning and spending on popularity slogans.”