The Supreme Court on Saturday told the union government to prioritise an emergency plan over long-term measures as capital city Delhi and nearby areas blanketed in smog for over a week now.
“You see how bad the situation is….even in our houses, we are wearing masks,” Chief Justice NV Ramana said.
The court was hearing a PIL filed last year by a 17-year-old boy on the deteriorating air quality in Delhi around Diwali, and on the onset of winter.
The top court tressed the need for emergent intervention, noting that schools in Delhi had reopened and children were at risk of being exposed to a cocktail of the coronavirus, pollutants and dengue-carrying mosquitoes.
Asking the centre and states to submit their response by Monday, the CJI said: “You tell us how do you plan to take the emergency measures? Two-day lockdown? What is your plan on lowering the AQI (Air Quality Index) levels?”
“Look at the issue by going beyond (the) responsibility of governments (centre or states). Something needs to happen so that we feel better at least for next two-three days,” he said.
The bench comprising the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant highlighted that there are other causes of pollution than stubble burning, like vehicular pollution, firecrackers, dust control etc, legal website Live Law reported.
The CJI stressed that “we want to feel better in 2-3 days.”
“First see Delhi, then we will call other states, impose some strict measures”, the CJI told the Solicitor General.
The solicitor general assured the apex court that the central authority constituted to find remedial measures to keep Delhi’s air quality in control will convene a meeting Saturday evening and some emergent steps would be taken thereafter.
The national capital saw the season’s worst air quality on Friday and the central pollution watchdog advised people to stay indoors.
When Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi Government, mentioned the issue of stubble burning, Justice Surya Kant said, “now it has become a fashion to bash the farmers whether its Delhi government or someone else. There was a ban on firecrackers, what happened with that? What has been happening in last 7 days?What was the Delhi police doing?”
“You are projecting as if farmers are responsible…what about the Delhi people? What about the steps to regulate firecrackers, vehicular emissions?”, the CJI asked