With Delhi in a chokehold of smog and pollution, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the centre and the state governments of Punjab, Haryana, and UP for their failure in checking instances of stubble burning, despite previous Supreme Court orders. The Supreme Court has summoned the Chief Secretaries of all the 3 neighbouring states to appear personally before it on Nov 6.
The apex court also warned that if even a single instance of crop burning was reported, the Supreme Court would hold the entire administrative machinery from the chief secretary to the
gram pradhan, personally, liable.
In the order, the two-judge bench has also stayed any and all forms of construction in the whole of the Delhi NCR region. As per the order, violations will invite penalties of Rs 1 lakh. The SC has also directed for a stay on burning of garbage, prescribing a penalty of Rs 5,000 for violations.
Delhi pollution: The ground reality of stubble burning in Punjab
The Supreme Court was a hearing a host of PILs which had raised the red flag on air pollution in the national capital. The Supreme Court used strong words to express their disappointment. The court observed that the state of affairs was shocking with the right to be life, of millions, being violated.
The apex court also noted that there were calls being issued to millions to leave Delhi and that such an exodus should not be acceptable in the national capital. Justice Arun Mishra, who was heading the bench, lashed out saying that no civilised country can have millions of people being choked in its national capital.
The court also warned farmers that they did not enjoy the sympathy of the court. The SC observed that farmers do not have the right to endanger the lives of others for their livelihood.
As per the Amicus assisting the court and as per data furnished by the states, Punjab appeared to be most errant of the 3 neighbouring states with instances of crop burning climbing by 8 percent. The SC expressed its disappointment and warned that the time is now for fixing accountability.
The Supreme Court also issued a strong warning to all the 3 states by summoning their Chief Secretaries at the date of the next hearing on Nov 6. The SC has asked the states to explain why they should not be asked to pay compensation, as per the “polluter pays” principle, for failing to check stubble burning.
Odd-Even kicks off in Delhi: Here's everything you should know about it
The Delhi government was also not immune from the apex court’s tongue lashing. The SC repeatedly questioned the Delhi government about the efficacy of the Odd-Even Scheme. The SC reasoned that those needing to travel would make use of autos or cabs for the commute and would end up polluting, nonetheless. In its observations, SC also questioned how realistic the concept of carpooling could be in Delhi.
Delhi government had responded by assuring the court that cabs and autos, operating in the city are CNG enabled and cause minimal pollution. Delhi government also drew the attention of the court to the Delhi Metro as a viable means of public transport. Nonetheless, SC has directed the Delhi government to submit a reply on the issue of odd-even schemes and the exclusions allowed to 2 wheelers.
The Supreme Court also entertained discussion, during the hearing, on the possibility of inducing rains artificially through “cloud seeding”. The amicus to the court cited instances in China where similar practices had yielded results.
In today’s order, the court has also recognised that the Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) has the power to regulate the entry of diesel vehicles in Delhi and urged it to proceed with the issue.The Supreme Court will resume hearing in this case on November 6.