"Ensure there is no smog in Delhi," Supreme Court to Centre

The Supreme Court also said that the executive with its resources was better equipped to deal with the air pollution in Delhi than courts.
Smog in Delhi
Smog in Delhi

The Central government should take steps to ensure that Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) does not grapple with smog in the coming days, the Supreme Court said on Friday observing that courts have limitations in dealing with such issues.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde asked Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta to ensure that the national capital is not impacted by smog and bad air quality while calling for "grading" actions/ offences that contribute to decline in Air Quality Index (AQI).

SG Mehta informed the top court that a body known as Commission for Air Quality Management for NCR and Adjoining Areas (Commission) has been set up by the Central government and will start functioning from today.

The Centre in exercise of its powers under Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020, had constituted the Commission on Thursday for tackling air pollution and plummeting AQI levels in the NCR.

"There are already many commissions, many brains working but ensure that there is no smog in the city. Also grade offences. Every offence cannot have (punishment) of 5 years jail or Rs. 1 crore fine,"

CJI Bobde remarked.

Senior Advocate Vikas Singh submitted that the condition in Delhi was akin to "public health emergency" and that some "drastic measures need to be taken."

However, the CJI stated that the case will be taken up after Diwali vacation and that the court of law has limitations since executive is the body "with money and resources."

"We have certain limitations and we are not abdicating our responsibility. Let SG take steps," the CJI said.

Though Singh raised issues with regard to the composition of the commission and how no members from the Health ministry was part of the commission, the court stated that those issues will be examined after the Diwali vacation.

The problem of stubble burning and the consequent air pollution caused in Delhi-NCR was highlighted in a petition filed by Aditya Dubey.

Among other things, the petitioner had recommended setting up of a monitoring committee and had suggested that retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Madan Lokur should head of the committee.

The Supreme Court had agreed to the same and appointed Justice Lokur as a one-man committee to monitor and prevent instances of stubble burning in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. This order was passed despite strong resistance from SG Mehta.

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