Hearing a petition filed over the air pollution in Delhi-NCR, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Wednesday, 17 November, remarked that debates on TV were creating more pollution than anything else.
"Everybody has their own agenda," CJI Ramana said in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, according to Bar and Bench.
During the hearing on Wednesday, the Centre, the Delhi government, and state governments of the NCR informed the court of the measures being taken by the authorities to curb the pollution that engulfs the capital city and its surrounding areas.
"Bureaucracy has gone into inertia and they don't want to do anything. Like using sprinklers or water buckets we have to say, this is the attitude of the executive," CJI Ramana observed, news agency ANI reported.
The matter has been posted to 24 November for further hearing.
Centre Unwilling to Allow WFH, To Encourage Carpooling
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the central government, told the apex court that the Centre was unwilling to implement a work from home policy for its employees because it would have "pan-India ramifications."
"Instead DoPT has issued an advisory for Central Government officers and staff for pooling and sharing of vehicles to the maximum extent possible so that number of Central Government vehicles plying for commuting of officers and staff are reduced substantially," he was quoted as saying by Bar and Bench.
In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Centre lists the directives issued by the Commission for Air Quality Management for Delhi-NCR.
These include a ban on the entry of trucks, except those carrying essential goods, in Delhi till 21 November. Temporary shutting down of thermal plants and a ban on construction have also been recommended. The Commission has also recommended an immediate ban on the use of diesel-powered generators, the solicitor general told the court.
The Commission has also directed use of smog towers, sprinklers, and dust suppressants in vulnerable hotspots at least three times a day, he said, ANI reported. The number of CNG-run buses should be increased by the Delhi government, he added.
The Commission has also directed all NCR states to shut all schools, colleges, and other educational institutions, and to hold classes through the virtual mode until further orders.
Observing that the wind flow is likely to pick up after 21 November, Advocate Mehta urged the Centre to wait until then before implementing harsher measures.
'Have Taken 90% Measures Suggested by Centre': Delhi
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Delhi government in the court, said that 90 percent of what the Centre has proposed has been done by Delhi government, ANI reported.
Listing the measures being undertaken by the Delhi government for the betterment of the air quality, Singhvi noted that construction sites are being monitored, anti-smog guns have been installed, and an anti-dust campaign being organised.
"I am proud that 90 percent of boxes in the central government affidavit have been ticked. We can increase metro and bus frequencies. Please order work from home or ban the vehicles in peripheral states too since no point of such ban only in Delhi," he was quoted as saying by Bar and Bench.
What Punjab, Haryana Said
The Haryana government told the Supreme Court that it has implemented all the suggestions made by the Commission.
"The chief secretary and district magistrates are taking stock so no stubble burning happens in these 2 weeks," the state government's legal representative informed the court, as per Bar and Bench.
The legal counsel for the Punjab government told the top court that the state doesn't fall under the Delhi-NCR region, but has taken measures for the reduction of stubble burning.
SG Mehta Complains of Being Criticised on Television
At the outset of Wednesday's hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta complained that there have been "nasty occurrences on TV" to show that he had misled the SC on the issue of stubble burning.
Justice Chandrachud responded to SG Mehta, saying that the court had not been misled at all.
"You said 10 percent but it was pointed out in the affidavit that it was 30 to 40 percent," he added, according to the report.
CJI Ramana further told SG Mehta that "these kind of criticisms keep happening", adding that "our conscience is clear and we work for betterment of society".
While studies have shown that the contribution of stubble burning in NCR is between 4-10 percent, this number can go as high as 35-40 percent at the peak of Delhi's pollution season.
Singhvi Pushes Issue of Differing Stats, CJI Ramana Lashes Out
The subjectof different statistics was brought up again during the hearing by Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was appearing for the Delhi government. Singhvi once again pointed out that the Centre said that stubble burning contributes to 35-40 percent of pollution.
CJI Ramana responded to this by saying that Wednesday's newspapers all have their own statistics, according to Bar and Bench.
However, Singhvi continued to push the issue, saying, "It has been stated in a central government paper that it varies from 0 to 58 percent. Possibly Mehta has taken a four or six month average."
Reacting to this, CJI Ramana questioned Singh as to why he was raising the same issue multiple times, reminding him that the focus of the court is pollution, and that his points are not relevant.
"Debates in TV are creating more pollution than everyone else. Everybody has their own agenda. They don't understand anything," the CJI observed.
(With inputs from ANI and Bar and Bench)