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Our orders are violated with impunity – Delhi HC on govt’s failure to combat air pollution

Smrithi Suresh

Clients and lawyers waiting in the Delhi High Court
Clients and lawyers waiting in the Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court’s BD Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva  JJ., who had recently compared living in Delhi as ‘living in a gas chamber’yet again adopted a tough stance today in the court-initiated petition regarding air pollution.

The ire of the Bench was invited due to certain affidavits and requisite status reports not being filed by authorities that were impleaded in the petition.

In a series of comprehensive orders passed previously, the Bench had granted a time of three weeks to various parties including the Delhi Govt, Central Govt, DDA, NHAI etc to come up with concrete ideas and proposals to tackle the menace of air pollution in the Capital.

However, today when the matter was called out, the Bench was dissatisfied with the submissions of the counsels when most of them sought an extension of time to file the documents.

“These orders were passed three weeks ago. Every time you people have sought extensions. You are not taking the issue seriously. We have previously noted that all the laws are in place and yet nobody is ensuring compliance to them.”

While appreciating the efforts taken by Senior Advocate Kailash Vasdev who was appointed as Amicus Curae in the matter by the Court, the Bench made certain personal observations to highlight the severity of the issue. Justice Sachdeva said,

“When I used to practice, my commute from Gurgaon to Delhi  was through the road which has now been converted to NH-8 and that road was lined with trees. Now I do not see a single tree on that route.”

While addressing Sanjeev Ralli who appeared for Delhi’s Department of Environment and Delhi Pollution Control Committee, Justice Sachdeva further added,

“In order to understand the gravity of the situation, before the next date of hearing you should step out of your house and notice your own neighborhood which may be indulging in several anti-environmental practices.”

On a similar issue, Justice Ahmed added that when he came to Court today, he noticed that the vaccuming of roads was resulting in more air being ‘blow out than sucked in.’ However, he commended the success of the Odd-Even Scheme and credited the people of Delhi for making it a success while admonishing the counsel appearing for Delhi Police.

“The greatest credit goes to the people of Delhi. It is their achievement as they voluntarily supported the Scheme. The traffic has gone down. But you cannot claim any credit. Your department has been completely lax. Orders are violated with impunity.”

A marathon hearing that went on for nearly the entire day also saw an intervenor, Vandana Gupta, who said that she was filing the application as a private citizen who wished to contribute towards efforts in reducing air pollution. Her application urged the Court to take into account pollution that was caused by open air kitchens and non-conforming commercial kitchens.

“Only 300-500 commercial kitchens in Delhi have permission to operate from the DPCC. Such establishments and also the open air kitchens send out noxious fumes in the air which pose a great risk to pregnant women and fetal development.”

After hearing all the parties, the Bench reiterated the directions passed by it in earlier orders and posted the matter for further hearing on January 28.

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