Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Delhi air pollution: Supreme Court warns of tough measures, gives 24 hours to Centre, Delhi to act against industrial, vehicular pollution

The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed dissatisfaction over the measures taken by the Delhi and Central governments in the last few weeks and said the air pollution in Delhi has increased despite claims.

The Apex Court was hearing a case related to construction in Delhi-NCR which was banned by the top court in view of the deteriorating air quality.

A bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant said that it might create a task force by itself to monitor the implementation of the directions. The bench observed that several directions issued by the Commission for Air Quality Management are not being implemented at the ground level.

During the hearing, the CJI Ramana said “We feel that nothing is happening and the pollution keeps increasing, only time is being wasted.” This is the fourth straight week that the court heard arguments over the air crisis in the national capital and nearby cities.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested the bench for one more day’s time to respond to the concerns expressed by the Court. The SG said that he will talk to the highest authority and come out with additional measures to deal with the crisis.

Warning of strict action, the court gave the Centre and Delhi 24 hours to act against industrial and vehicular pollution. Expressing displeasure over the Delhi government’s decision to reopen schools, the CJI asked the Delhi government why schools were open?

Three and 4-year-old children are going to schools but adults are working from home, the CJI said. To this, the Centre told the CJI that the government schools are closed. However, the CJI said the bench wants to reduce pollution.

“You are saying you left it optional. But who wants to sit at home? We also have children and grandchildren. We know the problems they have been facing since the pandemic. If you don’t take action, we will take strict action tomorrow. We are giving you 24 hours,”

-the Chief Justice said in sharp response.

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Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Delhi government, said there is a lot of debate on learning loss when the schools were closed during Covid. However, the Delhi government reopened with the condition including the option for online. The top court asked Singhvi to get instructions on what the Delhi government is doing on schools and offices.

Delhi schools reopened on Monday, about 10 days after the closure brought about by the air crisis. Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh said Delhi’s air quality has crossed 500 AQI and Central Vista project is in progress. He also said whatever steps are being taken should be monitored and it is mandatory. The project is not necessary at the cost of the common man’s life, he said. The centre’s affidavit last night had said that the Central Vista project was of national importance and was no source of pollution.

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Delhi’s air quality deteriorated sharply last month after Diwali. Tough questions on action against industrial sites and checks on entry of vehicles in Delhi were asked during the hearing.

Representing the Delhi government, Abhishek Manu Singhvi read out measures taken by Delhi to control industrial pollution, vehicular pollution and dust. The panel – the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas or CAQM – on air pollution has no power of enforcement, and no power of real prosecution, Justice DY Chandrachud observed.

The court will hear the matter again tomorrow.

Read the Centre’s affidavit on Central Vista and other projects below



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