As Delhi and other parts of North India continued to be in the grip of noxious smog, the Supreme Court on Monday issued a slew of orders to address the issue. These order came at the end of a long hearing that saw several strongly-worded statements from the judges hearing the case.
The court banned all construction and demolition activities in Delhi-NCR until further orders. The court has also said that all industries that are not essential should shut for the time being, CNN-News18 reported.
Also, governments have been instructed that no power cuts should take place in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, so that no diesel generators are used.
The apex court 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.
Significantly, the Supreme Court has also asked the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh why they should not be asked to pay compensation on the principle of "polluter pays" considering their failure to stop stubble burning. The chief secretaries of the three states have been asked to present themselves at the next hearing.
The Delhi government also came under fire from the judges, and it has been asked to produce data or records to prove that the odd-even scheme has reduced pollution in the capital.
Justice Arun Mishra asked the government, "What is the logic behind odd-even scheme? We can understand banning diesel vehicles, but what is the point of the odd-even scheme?" Justice Mishra further remarked, "Cars create less pollution. What are you (Delhi government) getting from this odd-even?"
During the hearing, Centre told the Supreme Court that a series of stern steps needs to be taken to tackle the situation.
The Joint Secretary in the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests appeared before the top court on Monday, and the court asked the official to list out immediate steps that can be taken and the roadmap to tackle air pollution.
According to Bar and Bench, the Joint Secretary said stubble burning needs to be stopped immediately, as it contributes to particulate matter.
The official is reported to have told the court, "All steps indicated in case of severe plus pollution need to be taken. This includes stopping all construction activity and stopping crop burning in Punjab and Haryana."
'You are asking people to die'
The apex court severely censured the authorities for failing to curb pollution, and said that it will fix liability on state governments for the situation.
People are losing precious years of their lives due to pollution, the court noted.
Earlier during the hearing, a bench of justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta had asked the Centre to call environmental experts, including from IIT, to the court within 30 minutes.
"Can we survive in this atmosphere? This is not the way we can survive," the bench said, adding that the authorities have left the people to die.
"Delhi is choking every year and we are not able to do anything. Question is that every year this is happening," the bench said, adding, "It cannot be done in a civilised country".
It also took serious note of crop burning in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh and said it cannot go unabated every year. "Why should there be unabated crop burning every year? Every year, there is hue and cry. States know this but still they are not tackling this issue," the bench said.
Senior advocate Aparajita Singh, assisting the apex court as an amicus curiae in the air pollution matter, told the bench that as per the Centre's affidavit, crop burning has gone up by seven percent in Punjab and down by 17 percent in Haryana. Environmentalist Sunita Narain also told the court that while Haryana has largely controlled crop burning, enforcement in Punjab is poor.
The top court called the pollution in Delhi-NCR as atrocious and said no one is safe even inside homes. "It is too much. No one is safe even inside their house. It is atrocious," the bench said. "People are being advised not to come to Delhi due to pollution, state governments are responsible for this."
"You are asking people to die. Your states (Punjab and Haryana) are also badly affected. Is this the administration left in Punjab and Haryana? Every year this is happening. We will fasten the liability of states and panchayats also," the bench said.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Nov 04, 2019 17:08:58 IST