Air Pollution: SC Says Won't Dispose of Matter, Asks Centre To Continue Measures

The SC asked the Union govt to continue the measures for controlling air pollution for the next two-three days.

Climate Change
3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>A view of the Supreme Court of India, shrouded in smog, in New Delhi, Saturday, 13 November. </p></div>

The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday, 24 November, while hearing a petition regarding air pollution in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), asked the Union government to continue the measures for controlling air pollution for the next two-three days.

The SC bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant said that if in the meantime the pollution level reduces and becomes 100, then some restrictions may be lifted.

The CJI further said that the court is not disposing of the matter and will continue monitoring the situation.

Must Take Measures in Advance, SC Tells Centre

On Wednesday, the bench was informed that amid the current situation with regard to pollution, all educational institutions remain closed, and the industrial ban continues, while construction work has been allowed to restart in light of the improvement in air quality.

SG Tushar Mehta was apprising the bench about the decisions taken by the Commission for Air Quality Management in the NCR and Adjoining Areas in its meeting held on 21 November.

According to LiveLaw, the apex court told SG Mehta that the body must take measures in anticipation based on scientific data and statistical models, rather than wait for the situation to become severe.

While the SG was stating the other measures adopted by the body, Justice Chandrachud said, "These are all ad-hoc measures. The commission has to do a scientific study by having statistical models. You have the wind pattern for next seven days. You have to take measures consistent with the wind direction. What are the steps you need to take, and what will be impact of those steps for the next seven days? Somebody has to conduct that study. It must be science based."

SG Mehta agreed to this saying, "I bow down. We should not wait for things to become severe."

Justice Chandrachud further pointed out that the state of the national capital is not sending a good signal to the world and that there needs to be a model for the different seasons of Delhi.

"You have to have scientific analysis based on seasons of year, causes of pollution and expected wind direction. This action has to be taken in advance. Why should Delhiites suffer from air quality which is poor or severe?" Justice Chandrachud questioned, according to LiveLaw.

Continuing the discussion, CJI Ramana observed that the improvement in the national capital's air quality was more due to the reduction in the wind speed rather than efforts by the government.

The CJI also observed that the bureaucracy could play more of a role in addressing 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 CJI reportedly said.

No Substantial Change in Air Quality: SC Bench

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta about the air quality, pointing out that on 21 November, he had stated that it would improve.

SG Mehta informed the court that on 16 November it was 403, and said that it is now at 290, adding that according to the meteorological department, the wind is likely to continue in same direction, reported LiveLaw.

"We read that according to the department it will become severe again. Anyway we have to see steps to be taken," CJI Ramana told SG Mehta, according to the report.

However, some time later in the hearing, the CJI pointed out that the AQI is 318 at the moment, having checked the level on his phone.

"You're saying 290, we checked it is 318 at the moment. There's no substantial change except for maybe these two days. But it may again become serious. Take measures that we've directed," he said, according to LiveLaw.

Concerned With Pollution, Can't Micromanage Things: CJI

Earlier, during the hearing, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh told the bench of justices that Business Standard did a story that due to the upcoming elections in Punjab, no fines are being imposed on farmers for stubble burning.

Responding to this, CJI Ramana said that they are only concerned with pollution. "We cannot really micromanage such things and say what fines have to be imposed etc," CJI Ramana said, according to Bar and Bench.

Singh, however, argued that the incentive that was to be given to farmers has not been given and consequently the farmers continued to burn stubble.

In the same regard, the apex court on Wednesday also asked the governments of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh about any study that showed how much stubble has been removed from these states and what emission control methods have been adopted.

(With inputs from LiveLaw and Bar and Bench.)

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