Taking serious note of the air pollution which has engulfed the Delhi-NCR area, the Supreme Court on Monday passed a slew of directions.
The key directions are :
- Chief Secretaries of Punjab, UP and Haryana summoned on November 6 to brief the Court on measures to curb crop stubble burning.
- Directs Collectors and police officials to ensure that no further crop stubble burning takes place. Chief Secretaries, Collectors, Commissioners, Gram Pradhans and local administration will be held responsible if stubble burning takes place.
- Sarpanch of each and every panchayat and SHO of the concerned area to prepare inventory of incumbents who have burnt stubble in the area.
- Delhi government has been directed to take suggestions from experts and work with other bodies to tackle problem of garbage. EPCA to assist in preventing entry of diesel vehicles in Delhi.
- Directs ban on construction and demolition activities in Delhi and NCR. Violaters would be penalized with ₹1 lakh.
- Puts a stop on coal based industries. Will be penalized if not followed.
- Municipal bodies directed to prevent open dumping of garbage.
- Directs sprinkling of water on roads and planning of traffic to reduce congestion in order to prevent road dust. To be taken up by Delhi police.
- Bans use of diesel generators in Delhi NCR until further orders.
- State governments should form a high level committee to deal with the crisis.
- Pollution Control Boards of Delhi and States of UP, Punjab and Haryana to put a halt on polluting industries working against norms
The Court expressed displeasure at the government bodies neglecting the earlier directions of the Court in this regard.
"Let the State Governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and officials also explain that why they should not be asked to pay the compensation for tortious liability as they have acquiesced and due to their failure in preventing stubble burning which is in utter violation of the Public Trust doctrine, why they should not be held liable to compensate, and also the incumbents who are burning the stubble in spite of clear restrictions imposed by this Court and statutory prohibition"., the Court ordered.
The bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta observed that life span was coming down due to pollution. The Court advised people not to enter Delhi or leave their homes in Delhi.
"Time has come when we have to fix the accountability for this kind of situation which has arisen and is destroying right to life itself in gross violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. No farmer can be said to be having a right under the guise that he is not having sufficient time to use the stubble for the purpose of manure, since they have less time between two crops, cutting and sowing of next crop. As such, they cannot by burning it in their fields, put life of sizeable population in jeopardy"., observed the Court in the order.
"Everybody has to be answerable including the top state machinery percolating down to the level of gram panchayat. The very purpose of giving administration power up to the panchayat level is that there has to be proper administration and there is no room for such activities. The action is clearly tortuous one and is clearly punishable under statutory provisions, besides the violation of the Court's order", added the Court.
"The satellite image clearly indicates that in Punjab there is widespread stubble burning which has taken place as compared to Haryana, in which only in four districts it has taken place. There is some burning in Western U.P. also. It could not have taken place even in a singular district or gram panchayat area as we live in a civilized country in which such kind of activities which create such menacing pollution not only in the area concerned but to the neighbouring States also, by ill-effects of that people cannot be left to die or to suffer various ailments", the Court observed.
The bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta took up the issue of air pollution in Delhi-NCR in the wake of the EPCA declaring a public health emergency taking note of the severely deteriorated air quality.
"The city is choking, but Delhi govt and Centre are only seen passing the buck. Delhi chokes every year, but we haven't been able to do anything about it", Justice Arun Mishra lamented before the bench summoned experts from the Ministry of Environment and Forests and IIT Delhi to address the court on the issue.
Thirty minutes later, the bench took up the matter again, in the presence of Joint Secretary of MoEF.
The Joint Secretary briefed the court that steps for banning construction activities in Delhi-NCR have been taken and that the Chief Secretaries of states have been informed to stop stubble burning.
Not satisfied with the submission, Justice Mishra said "That is not a solution. Tell us a solution. We want an immediate solution, tell us what can be done. We are all losing a part of our lives, that's a scientific fact."
The Joint Secretary added that satellite images of the smog situation have been sent to authorities for corrective actions.
The Environment Pollution Control Authority head Bhure Lal submitted that unless stubble burning is stopped immediately, the situation cannot be remedied. The amicus curiae Senior Advocate Aparajita Singh told the bench that the enforcement of court directives was dismal.
In this backdrop, Justice Mishra said "We have no sympathy for farmers. They cannot kill people with complete knowledge of what they're doing".
The bench observed that it was inclined to summon the Chief Secretaries of Punjab and Haryana Governments, and the gram pradhans and local officials for failing to control stubble burning.
J Mishra questions odd even scheme. It will only create more problems by allowing more taxis to move.— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) November 4, 2019
J Gupta- a number of taxis run on diesel. We can consider some innovative incentives.
Bench questions logic behind odd even.#DelhiAirEmergency
Questions wisdom of Odd-even scheme
The Court also discussed the issue of vehicular pollution.
The govt of NCT Delhi has been asked to submit by Friday a report with data to prove that odd-even scheme has reduced pollution. The Court asked why exemption was given to two wheelers and three wheelers, in the proposed odd -even scheme.
"Let the Government of NCT of Delhi explain this aspect and file the data in this regard in the Court on the basis of the previous experience and whether if three wheelers and taxies are plying more on road during such restriction and relevant data be placed", Court stated in the order.
"We understand banning of diesel vehicles, but you are stopping one vehicle and letting others to plying. What will you achieve? More autorickshaws and taxis will ply", Jusice Arun Mishra orally said during the hearing doubting the efficacy of odd-even scheme.
Justice Gupta criticized the management of public transport :
"The airport metro is mostly empty.When I joined SC, govt had promised 3000 buses on roads within 3 years. There are hardly 300 right now. The solution is to move from single use vehicles to mass transport", he said.