Why should Delhiites suffer poor air quality, asks Supreme Court


Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  Expressing concern over the sad state of affairs in managing the worsening pollution in Delhi-NCR every year, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said some orders on immediate preventive measures is the need of the hour. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said, “We take measures when the condition becomes severe. These measures have to be taken in anticipation based on a scientific statistical model. Take the measures for the next two-three days and we will again hear this matter next Monday.”

The bench which also included Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant said, “This is the national capital. Look at the signal we are sending to the world. You can stop these activities in anticipation itself so the severity does not become worse. Suddenly when pollution spikes you start sprinkling water, which will not help. If you have a statistical model then there will be a graded response.”

However, the top court made it clear that it intended to pass orders on measures to be implemented by the Centre, Delhi and NCR states to improve the air quality and bring it to a satisfactory level. Noting that crores of rupees collected as cess for welfare of construction workers was lying with states, the bench asked the government to consider paying subsistence allowances to construction workers for loss of work on the days when construction work was banned.

The bench again pulled up the bureaucracy for its lackadaisical attitude in dealing with the issue of air pollution and stubble burning. “We are using common sense to discuss the issues. What is the Central and state bureaucracy doing? Why can’t they go to the fields, talk to farmers and scientists and devise a permanent solution to prevent stubble burning?” the bench said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench that on November 16 the AQI was 403 and that now it had improved to 260. The chief government representative said directions for dust management were being followed and 250 anti-smog guns have been installed, 23 mechanised road sweeping machines and 1,007 water sprinklers were also deployed. 

“What is done now is ad hoc. The commission under the act has to conduct a scientific study. There has to be a model to see that if measures are taken with wind patterns then there will be a reduction in pollution,” the bench emphasised. On behalf of the petitioner, senior advocate Vikas Singh alleged that farmers were not being fined for stubble burning in Punjab in view of the ensuing Assembly elections.

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