Task force and flying squads to control pollution: Centre


Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre and the states in the National Capital Region (NCR) to implement the directives issued by the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) as it accepted the panel’s proposals, which included having in place an Enforcement Task Force in each of these states and flying squads to check pollution and penalise violators. 

The Commission filed an affidavit before the SC bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana apprising about the measures taken by it on December 2. The CAQM submitted that it had constituted the task force in exercise of its statutory power to monitor compliance with its directions.

Also, 17 flying squads had been constituted to act against violators and the number of these would be increased to 40 in the next 24 hours, the Commission told the bench. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench that the flying squads had already started functioning from December 2 and had conducted surprise checks at 25 sites.

The task force will have the power of taking punitive and preventive measures against non-compliant/defaulting persons/entities and the flying squads will report to it, the affidavit stated. “The task force has two independent members. It will meet at 6 pm every day,” Mehta submitted adding that the flying squads would be monitoring NCR, too.

The court directed the Centre and the Delhi government to implement the anti-pollution measures introduced by the CAQM. The Commission in its affidavit stated that industrial operations in NCR where gas was not available and not running on PNG or clean fuel would be allowed to operate only on weekdays and only for eight hours.

At this, advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing on behalf of UP, objected saying the sugarcane farmers would be hit at the peak of the ongoing crushing season. “Closure of industries may affect sugarcane industries. UP is on down wind, air is mostly coming from Pakistan,” Kumar said. This led CJI Ramana to respond, “So you want to ban industries in Pakistan?”

‘Should mull converting some plants to other fuels’

“Operation of thermal power plants within 300 kilometre radius of Delhi shall continue to be regulated in terms of the commission’s latest order dated November 30, 2021, whereby only five out of eleven thermal power plants have been permitted to schedule their operations and the rest have been directed to remain inoperative till at least December 15, 2021,” the affidavit stated.

At this, Justice Chandrachud suggested that the government should consider shifting these plants to alternative fuel for the long term. The apex court also permitted Delhi to continue its work on the construction of 21 hospitals, several of them devoted to Covid-19 treatment in the national capital, provided they meet the directions of the air quality commission.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for Delhi government told the bench that schools had stayed closed for 17 months. The bench also referred to some news reports to say that intentionally or unintentionally, some sections of media projected the judges in poor light who unlike political parties do not have any forum to rebut these claims.

“One thing what we observed is, whether intentional or unintentional, some sections of media portrays us that we are the villains who want to close down the schools. On your own you (Delhi government) opened the schools, but see today’s newspapers,” the bench said. Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the Delhi government, said, “That is my complaint too. The court must put the blame where it is.”

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