Declare two-day lockdown if need be: SC on severe air pollution in Delhi
New Delhi, November 13, 2021
The Supreme Court on Saturday took a serious view of the severe air pollution in Delhi-NCR and suggested that if needed the government can declare a two-day lockdown to bring down the levels, which have been caused by stubble burning, vehicles, firecrackers, industries and dust.
The top court emphasised that the air pollution issue should be looked into "beyond politics and governments".
At the outset, a bench headed by Chief Justice N. V. Ramana told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, that the "situation is very bad... In the house we are wearing masks. It is a bad situation".
"How to control air pollution in Delhi, two days lockdown, if need be, or what. How will people live in Delhi?" queried the Chief Justice.
He emphasised that the government should look at steps to bring down the AQI from 500 to 200, and then further improve it.
Mehta began the argument by detailing steps taken by the air quality management commission to abate air pollution in NCR and adjoining areas, which included steps taken to address agricultural stubble burning.
The bench, also comprising Justices D. Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant said that, instead of blaming the farmers, all state governments and the Centre should come together to address the issue.
The Chief Justice noted that stubble burning by farmers is only responsible for 25 per cent of the pollution, and the remaining 75 per cent was from firecracker burning, vehicles and dust.
The Chief Justice asked Mehta: "Where is the effective mechanism to control firecrackers, vehicular pollution? Look at the pollution level," to which the latter said that both the Centre and state governments are working together to address the issue.
The Chief Justice added: "We have nothing to do, governments need burning solutions, how to control. Need two to three days short term plans to control pollution."
Mehta clarified that he is not saying that only farmers are responsible for the severe air pollution which has engulfed Delhi-NCR.
Justice Chandrachud pointed out that the Delhi government has opened schools and cited the AIIMS Director's remark that it is a triple whammy - pollution, Covid, and dengue.
"Their lungs are exposed," he told Mehta, adding: "Look into the issue beyond politics and government."
Mehta replied that he never said farmers were responsible for pollution and there are other factors too.
The Chief Justice told Mehta that he started his presentation with issues associated with stubble burning, which led to the response.
The top court told the Centre and the Delhi government to inform it on Monday the decisions taken to take emergency steps to address severe air pollution in the capital.
During the hearing, the Chief Justice asked Mehta not to misconstrue his remarks on the stubble burning issue.
"I learnt English in Class 8, I may not have been the best in English," said the Chief Justice.
Mehta said he shares a similarity with the CJI, adding: "I studied in Gujarati till class 8."
The apex court was hearing a plea by a minor boy seeking directions against stubble burning and other factors associated with the high pollution levels in Delhi-NCR.