Delhi air pollution hearing: 'Better to kill all in one go'; Supreme Court slams Punjab and Haryana govts for increase in stubble-burning

  • The Supreme Court Monday pulled up the governments of Punjab and Haryana for increase in stubble burning despite its order prohibiting it

  • The apex court, addressing the Haryana government officials, enquired why stubble burning has increased

  • The apex court had on 4 November passed a slew of orders to address air pollution in the National Capital

The Supreme Court Monday pulled up the governments of Punjab and Haryana for increase in stubble burning despite its order prohibiting it and said people in Delhi "can't be left to die" due to air pollution. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta took serious note of stubble-burning in the two states and said that the life span of millions of citizens has shortened and people are suffocating due to pollution in Delhi-NCR area.

The Supreme Court, addressing the Haryana government officials, asked why stubble-burning has increased. "You did a good job earlier in controlling stubble-burning, but now it has increased. Punjab and Haryana are not doing anything," the bench noted. The bench told the Punjab chief secretary that "every machinery in the state will be held responsible."

 Delhi air pollution hearing: Better to kill all in one go; Supreme Court slams Punjab and Haryana govts for increase in stubble-burning

File image of the Supreme Court of India. Reuters

"You can’t let people die like this. Delhi is near suffocating. Because you aren't able to implement measures, does that mean people in Delhi-NCR should suffer from cancer and die?" the bench asked. "Can you treat people like this and permit them to die due to pollution?" the bench was quoted as saying by Bar & Bench.

The apex court on 4 November had passed a slew of orders to address air pollution in the National Capital as Delhi and other parts of North India attempted to come to grips with a noxious smog. The court, in a long hearing, which saw judges make several strongly-worded statements and observations, banned all construction and demolition activities in the Delhi-NCR region, said that all non-essential industries be shuttered for the time being, and directed that the government ensure no power cuts take place in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh so that no diesel generators are used.

The apex court also emphasised that the entire police machinery and local administration must ensure no crop burning occurs. The court further said if stubble burning is found to be taking place, the administration would be held liable.

'How can you treat people like this?'

On Monday, the bench asked the Punjab chief secretary what steps had been taken to prevent stubble burning. "How can you treat people like this and let them die? Tell us why stubble burning increased after our order. Why are you not able to check stubble burning. Is it not a failure?" the bench wondered.

The Supreme court directed the Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to file report on adverse impact on environment of the factories running in Delhi. The bench also told the CPCB to file details on the nature of factories operating in the National Capital.

Justice Arun Mishra, speaking to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, asked: "Why are people being forced to live in gas chambers? It is better to kill them all in one go, get explosives in 15 bags at one go. Why should people suffer all this? In Delhi, blame game is going on, I am literally shocked”.

Mishra, addressing the Delhi chief secretary Vijay Kumar Dev, wondered who would compensate the public for damage to their life because officials could not control air pollution. "This is reducing the life span of people," Mishra observed. "People are laughing at our country that we can't even control stubble burning. Blame game is not serving the people of Delhi. You people will play the blame game, not taking it (pollution) seriously.

Justice Mishra said Delhi "is worse than hell" and that "life is not so cheap in India".  "You have no right to be in chair. How many lakh should each person be paid? How much do you value a person's life?" the judge enquired.

The Delhi chief secretary told the court Delhi is facing a 'governance problem' due to multiple power centres of the Delhi state government and the Centre. The apex court directed the Centre and Delhi government to "set aside their differences, sit together and within 10 days, finalise a plan for setting up air purifying towers in different parts of the city."

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Dec 07, 2019 18:22:45 IST