Supreme Court gives 24-hour ultimatum over Delhi air pollution
The Supreme Court Thursday came down heavily on the Centre and the governments of Delhi and neighboring states over air pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR). An SC bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant said it might create a "task force" to monitor the implementation of its directions to curb air pollution.
Why does this story matter?
Delhi is among the world's most polluted cities, witnessing "very poor" to "severe" air quality over the last month. Delhi's Air Quality Index (AQI) stood at 312 in the "very poor" category on Thursday morning. The SC's comments came while hearing a petition filed by a student, Aditya Dubey (17), seeking directions to improve Delhi's air quality.
'Why isn't pollution coming down?'
According to LiveLaw, CJI Ramana asked, "Where is the problem? Why is pollution not coming down? We have been passing directions. You have been making loud statements. The problem of stubble burning is also not there now. So, why has it not come down?"
SC's ultimatum to curb industrial, vehicular pollution
The SC noted that several directions issued by the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in Delhi-NCR were not being implemented. The court also said that it expects "serious real action" from the Centre. "If you cannot do tomorrow, we are going to do. We are giving you 24 hours," CJI Ramana reportedly said, delivering an ultimatum to combat industrial and vehicular pollution.
SC criticizes CAQM for being toothless
The SC noted that the CAQM has no power of enforcement and having such a 20-30 member committee is pointless. "We have to do something extraordinary, otherwise, it will not work. We cannot infuse creativity in your bureaucracy," CJI reportedly said.
Centre seeks more time
Representing the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested for one more day's time to respond to the court's concerns. He further told the court that there is no need to form a "task force" as authorities are keenly monitoring the implementation of anti-pollution measures. Mehta also said he can furnish the names and the composition of the inspection team before the court.
Earlier, petitioner had brought up Central Vista project
On Monday, the petitioner had raised concerns over the continued construction work of the Central Vista redevelopment project despite the re-imposition of a construction ban by the SC. "Lives of people should be more important than the Central Vista," the petitioner had argued. Thereafter, the SC had asked the Centre to clear the air over construction activities in areas under its jurisdiction.
Construction in compliance with rules: Centre
On Wednesday, the Centre filed an affidavit stating that it is constructing a new Parliament building, the Central Vista avenue, and "Metro Rail, Railways, Airports, Interstate Bus Terminals, etc." The first two are projects of "national importance," it said. The projects are being carried out complying with every condition of the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules to prevent more pollution, it added.
Delhi miffed over Central Vista construction
Meanwhile, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai has directed the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to issue notices to the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) over the Central Vista project. Rai had also visited the Central Vista redevelopment site Wednesday for inspection.
CAQM initially banned construction from November 16-21
The Commission had earlier banned construction activities in the national capital from November 16 to November 21 with certain exemptions. It had exempted works on railway services/stations, metro rail corporation services, stations, airports, and ISBTs. National security/defense-related activities/projects of national importance were also exempted. However, these works had to comply with "the C&D Waste Management Rules and dust control norms."
SC later reimposed construction ban
The CAQM in Delhi-NCR had on November 22 lifted the ban on construction activities noting improvement in Delhi's air quality. However, the same bench of the SC re-imposed the ban during a November 24 hearing.