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Air pollution in Delhi-NCR: Supreme Court pulls up AAP, other States; directs all stakeholders to take steps

The Supreme Court on Friday came down heavily on the Aam Aadmi Party-led government in Delhi, along with the governments of neighbouring States over the rising levels of air pollution in the Delhi-National Capital Region and directed them to come up with practical solutions to tackle the situation.

The Apex Court passed the orders on a batch of petitions raising concerns about the rising air pollution in Delhi and neighbouring states, and the practice of stubble burning.

The Bench pulled up the Arvind Kejriwal-led government, stating that speed came only after the intervention of the top court of the country year after year.

Noting that it cannot allow people to die, the Apex Court directed all Chief Secretaries to take steps, warning that if they did not do as per the court orders, all of them would be summoned to the court.

The Apex Court, while stating that it was no expert to the problem, said it wanted solutions and positive results. The Bench observed that it had solutions to every problem, but no one was doing anything. It then listed the matter for further hearing on November 21.

The Delhi government had apprised the Apex Court on Thursday that it had decided to bear the entire cost of artificial rain for combating hazardous air pollution in the city.

It said if the Centre was ready to support the decision, the Delhi government could arrange for the first artificial rain in the city by November 20, said Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai.

He emphasised that obtaining the necessary clearances and permissions for using this technology from both the Central and the state governments was a time-sensitive matter.

The Counsel representing the Delhi government told the court on Friday that the government planned to induce artificial rains on November 20 and 21 to battle the pollution. 

He said the Delhi government would require permissions from many Central agencies to do so and asked for the court to pass directions. 

However, the Bench refused to pass any such orders and said that a Supreme Court order was not needed for cooperation between Delhi and other governments.

The Apex Court also dispensed with the personal presence of the chairperson of Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) after being informed that the smog tower has now been operationalised.

On November 7, the Supreme Court had come down heavily on the Delhi government for not taking enough steps to curb pollution.

Calling the Odd-Even scheme as ‘optics,’ the Apex Court questioned its efficacy and success in the past in reducing the dangerously high pollution levels in the national capital.

The Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia had further directed the GNCTD to submit an affidavit by Friday on measures and steps, which could be taken reduce vehicular pollution

The Bench had further directed the governments of Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana to take immediate steps for the prevention of stubble burning by farmers, noting that burning of parali was one of the major contributors to air pollution.

It directed the Cabinet Secretary to call for a meeting with all stakeholders on this issue, observing that all stakeholders, including the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, must act promptly to stop crop burning immediately.

The Bench further directed the Delhi government to ensure that municipal solid waste was not burnt in the city during the open and listed the matter for further hearing on Friday. 

Coming down on the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), it said the smog towers installed by the AAP-led government in the national capital as per the earlier directions, were not working. 

It directed the Delhi government to immediately repair the smog towers, while calling the situation ludicrous. 

Noting that stopping stubble burning was the job of the Delhi government, the Apex Court strictly told the Delhi government to take measures from today onwards for the same.

The Apex Court further told Advocate General of Punjab Gurminder Singh, appearing for GNCTD, that the Aam Aadmi Party government must stop the fire, whether by forceful actions or by incentives. 

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