SC on Delhi air pollution LATEST Updates: A Special Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Arun Mishra on Wednesday directed the Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh governments to provide an incentive of Rs 100 per quintal to the states' farmers in seven days.
The bench also directed the state governments to undertake all the operational costs and providing stubble-converting machines to farmers at subsidised prices. "Stop stubble burning on priority," the bench said.
Coming down heavily on the Punjab and Haryana govts for their failure to implement an action plan to curb stubble burning in their states, the Supreme Court on Wednesday gave the state governments a duration of seven days to formulate a plan to buy the stubble from the farmers. The bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra also criticised the Punjab chief secretary for "passing the buck" the Centre for continued stubble burning.
"Again you are passing the buck, why are you Chief Secretary if you cannot do anything? We will suspend you from here only, you won't be able to work even for a single day. You are also a state government, don't depend on the Centre for everything.. it is not for the courts to run the government. Why have a state administration if you don't want to do anything? Why can't collection or purchase of stubble be done at panchayat level?" he added.
The Special Bench of the Supreme Court hearing petitions regarding the air pollution and stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, questioned the state governments over why the administration was not ready in advance even though "everyone knew that stubble burning would occur" as an annual event.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, saying that there were two ways of dealing with the disposal of stubble, added that machines to convert stubble into in-situ manure had been provided by the Centre in Haryana at a subsidised rate.
In response, Justice Arun Mishra asked why the machines were not provided in advance. He pulled up Punjab chief secretary over the response that 18,000 machines have been distributed, saying, "Why did you wait till September for this distribution? You started late that is why all machines could not be distributed."
The Supreme Court bench hearing the petitions regarding the air pollution in Delhi pulled up the Punjab and Haryana governments over stubble burning in the states and laid out three directives to combat the issue.
Criticising the Centre and the Punjab chief secretary of the lack of action in curbing stubble burning despite knowing that air pollution is an annual menace, Justice Mishra said that the apex court will hold authorities responsible for the collection of stubble so that farmers are not pushed to burn it.
"We cannot leave it with the farmers. We will make authorities responsible for collection (of stubble). But the lives of crores of people are affected by this stubble burning," he said, rejecting the Centre's solution to the issue.
Responding to AG KK Venugopal's argument that farmers will be adversely affected if stubble burning is completely banned, Justice Arun Mishra, heading the Special Bench hearing petitions regarding the rising levels of air pollution in Delhi, slammed the Centre and state governments for the lack of an effective solution to the annual pollution "menace".
Mishra said, "Why is the government not giving any other solution? Stubble burning is bad. The Attorney in a democratic country cannot give a suggestion like this. Why can't the Centre or State come up with a solution?"
Reportedly, the bench also pulled up the Punjab chief secretary over stubble burning and said that it was "time to punish officials at the top". Justice Mishra, questioning the official said, "Why are you the chief secretary if you can't protect life? Let the Central Govt rule the entire country if you say everything has to be done by them. You shouldn't be in the chair."
A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta has assembled for the hearing of fresh petitions regarding the air pollution in Delhi. Chief secretaries of states like Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh have also been summoned as the apex court seeks an explanation over why laws around stubble burning have not been implemented satisfactorily.
On Monday, the court had taken up the issue, which it termed as an "annual menace" and issued a slew of directions for immediate respite from the protracted problem.
Talking about stubble burning and rising air pollution in Delhi, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday suggested that converting stubble to CNG is possible, both "technologically" and "commercially". He further said this will help in providing jobs, additional income to farmers and solve the pollution crisis.
However, the air quality had improved on Tuesday from the previous days giving some respite to people suffering from pollution.
The Delhi government on Wednesday told the Delhi High Court that CNG vehicles were not exempted from the Odd-Even rationing scheme as they could have caused traffic congestion due to their sheer numbers.
The government's assertions came in its reply to a batch of representations that challenged the implementation of the road rationing scheme in the National Capital.
The Supreme Court will take up a suo motu case entitled, 'alarming rise in air pollution in Delhi and adjoining areas' on Wednesday. The National Capital and adjoining areas have been reeling under a smog-like situation making it extremely difficult for Delhiites. A special bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta will hear the matter at 3.30 pm today.
The chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh will also appear, as instructed by the apex court in the Monday hearing, before the Supreme Court. Earlier on Monday, the apex court had lashed out at governments of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana for what it termed an "annual pollution nightmare". The Supreme Court also slammed Centre for indulging blame-game with state governments over the issue.
Meanwhile, the air quality in Delhi-NCR continues to hover between "severe" and "very poor" category.
The Supreme Court, in its Monday hearing, termed the severe air pollution in Delhi-NCR "atrocious" and banned all construction and demolition activities, along with burning of garbage and waste, in Delhi and NCR region.
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.
The apex court had observed that people could not be "left to die" due to the "worse-than-emergency situation" and said that those carrying out construction and demolition activities, despite its order, would be fined Rs 1 lakh. It added that a penalty of Rs 5,000 would be imposed if anyone was found burning garbage and waste in the region.
The top court said in case of any violation, the local administration and zonal officers would be held responsible.
It said the prevailing situation in the area was a "blatant and grave violation of the right to life of an individual" and scientific data suggested that the life span of those living in the region have been reduced due to this.
The top court said the authorities could not indulge in "passing the buck" and should collectively try to tackle the situation.
"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 asked the Delhi government and the civic bodies to chalk out a plan to ensure removal of the waste dumped at open spaces and come up with a scheme to deal with the issue.
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?"
The Arvind Kejriwal-led government rolled out the third edition of the 12-day Odd-Even scheme on Monday to combat the rise in air pollution.
Several reports have showed that the air quality in the city had, in fact, improved after the implementation of the scheme. On Tuesday, the average air quality index (AQI) was recorded as 369 at 9 am, and an increase in wind speed was also expected to help clear the haze that had formed over the capital. On Monday, the pollution levels peaked to a three-year high (494).
Regarding pollution due to dust accumulated on the roads, the top court had said water be sprinkled on the stretches which were prone to dust. It directed that a traffic plan be prepared so that there was no burden on a particular road and the problem of pollution due to traffic congestion could be tackled. It asked the traffic authorities concerned to take immediate steps in this regard.
The top court had asked the court-mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to hold a meeting on 4 November and take a decision on whether the industries, which contributed to the pollution levels of Delhi-NCR, could be shut down during this period.
It had also asked the EPCA to take a call regarding banning the entry of diesel-run trucks, except those carrying essential commodities, in Delhi. Several other directions were passed by the top court to contain pollution saying that short term steps were needed to check the emergent situation.
With inputs from agencies