"Can you permit people to die like this and make it fait accompli?" A furious Supreme Court minced no words on Wednesday as it came down heavily on the chief secretaries, (the highest bureaucratic post at the state level) of the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for failing to prevent stubble burning in their respective states. The relentless stubble burning has, in turn, caused severe air pollution in the National Capital Region.
"Can you permit to go back by 100 years? It will be total chaos and total failure of the government machinery in the country," said a bench of justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta.
The bench, which admonished the chief secretaries of the three states for failing to prevent stubble burning, said it cannot tolerate this anymore and will not "spare even a single officer" responsible for this situation.
Coming down heavily on the state governments, the top court said that if they don't bother about people, they have no right to be in power.
"You (states) have forgotten the concept of welfare government. They are not bothered about poor people, this is very unfortunate," said the bench. "You just want to sit in your ivory towers and rule. You are not bothered and are letting the people die," the bench said.
Primarily, Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Rajendra Kumar Tiwari and his Punjab counterpart Karan Avtar Singh were in the line of fire.
The Supreme Court did not take kindly to Singh's suggestion that stubble burning be allowed with certain restrictions as it was difficult to ask farmers to take the additional financial burden of disposing off the stubble.
"It is a question of life and death for crores of people. They suffer from diseases such as asthma and cancer because of all this… We outright reject the suggestion of allowing stubble burning on certain conditions," the court said.
"Can you permit people to die like this due to pollution? Can you permit the country to go back by 100 years," observed the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra. "We have to make the government responsible for this. Why can't govt machinery stop stubble burning?"
"We expect more from the democratic government of the country to deal with the issue of stubble burning and curb pollution," the bench said.
The Attorney General replied that it’s not possible to control 2,00,000 farmers who will continue violating the rules, to which the SC said it was time to make chief secretaries accountable. “Time has come to punish chief secretaries now. Punjab chief secretary must be hauled up. Why should only poor farmers be punished? We will punish people at the top,” it said.
“Why are you the chief secretary if you can't protect people’s life? Let the Central government rule the entire country if you say you can't do anything and everything has to be done by the Central government,” the court said.
The bench went to the extent of warning the Punjab chief secretary that if he could not give a satisfactory response to the court's query, he would have to vacate his chair.
"We will suspend you from here…problem is all have forgotten the concept of a welfare state," Justice Mishra told the distraught chief secretary.
Tiwari, the Uttar Pradesh chief secretary, who was summoned by the apex court, started his submissions by telling his name to the court.
"We do not want to know your name. We do not want any lecture. What is the roadmap?" the bench asked the 1985-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer.
When Tiwari said that Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath was himself reviewing the situation as regards stubble burning, the anguished bench said, "CM or PM, we are not interested in names. We are interested in actual work only."
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Nov 07, 2019 10:47:15 IST