Supreme Court holds emergency hearing on Delhi air pollution

Just Arun Mishra cites Right to Life as of utmost importance, expresses displeasure on Centre & Delhi govts blaming each other

By Rohan Gupta
Published: Monday 04 November 2019
Photo: Joyjeet Das

After around 150 hours of severe air pollution crisis in Delhi, the Supreme Court on November 4 conducted an emergency hearing on bringing an ‘immediate solution’ to the crisis. 

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta heard the matter after the national Capital tuned into a gas chamber the previous day.

Citing Right to Life as of utmost importance, Mishra expressed displeasure at the Centre and Delhi governments blaming each other.

The bench directed the Centre to summon an environment expert from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi to suggest immediate measures which could be taken to curb this menace. The expert suggested that as a first measure, stubble burning should be stopped.

The bench questioned the effectiveness of the odd-even scheme in Delhi, saying it would create more problems by allowing more taxis to ply on the road while highlighting that a lot of taxis run on diesel.

Holding stubble burning responsible for a significant source of air pollution in Delhi, the bench rebuked the Haryana and Punjab governments and asked why liability has not been fixed on gram pradhans, sarpanches, etc, as they are aware about who was burning crop stubble.

Sunita Narain, member of Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority for the National Capital Region (EPCA) informed that Haryana has controlled stubble burning.

Amicus curiae Aparajita Singh asked for banning of all truck entering the region, apart from those carrying essential commodities. Alleging that court orders aren’t being followed, she said despite the ban, construction activities are taking place after payment of fines. The issue of emissions caused by usage of generators in case of power cuts was also brought to the fore by ehr.

Additional Solicitor General Atmaram Nadkari held four districts of Punjab responsible for 71 per cent of stubble burning and recommended continuing enforcement and patrolling to control it. Singh asserted that industries, open burning of garbage in Delhi was responsible for 60 per cent of its pollution. 

The court summoned the chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and UP for November 6, holding them answerable for pollution in the NCR. 

Here are the directions issued by the apex Court: 

  • Chief secretaries, along with collectors, tehsildar and the entire police machinery of the states, are responsible to ensure no stubble burning 
  • Gram pradhans, local administrations and the police to be personally responsible for any violation of the above  
  • The Delhi government to take suggestions from experts and work with other bodies to tackle garbage-burning  
  • EPCA to assist with prevention on entry of vehicles. 
  • Ban on construction and demolition activities in Delhi and NCR. Penalty of Rs 1 lakh on local administration in case of violations 
  • A stop put on coal based industries. Bench says violations will be penalised
  • National Capital Territory Delhi to furnish report by Friday, on the rationale behind exemption of two- and three-wheelers in the odd-even scheme and what difference does it make 
  • State governments should form high-level committees  
  • Diesel generators banned in Delhi NCR until further orders  
  • Delhi Police to sprinkle water on roads and plan traffic to reduce congestion to prevent road dust 
  • Municipal bodies to prevent open dumping of garbage

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