The Supreme Court has given a 24-hour deadline to both the Centre and the state government to come up with some serious plans for implementing measures to control air pollution. The bench comprising Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, and Surya Kant said that the court might create a “task force” to monitor the implementation of the measures to curb the pollution level.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested the bench for one more day to respond to the court’s concerns. “Mr Mehta, we expect a serious, real action; if you can’t do it, tomorrow we are going to do it. We are giving you 24 hours,” the CJI told the Solicitor General.
The Supreme Court told the Centre and the Delhi government that if they fail to take any measure to control pollution, then the court will pass an order. The matter will again be heard tomorrow at 10 am. Asked about the major sources of pollution, the Solicitor General said that vehicular emission and industries are the major sources. “What is the Commission doing? In a situation of emergency, you’ve to work quickly and with creativity. What’s the point of a 20–30-member committee? Another burden on the state exchequer. We’ve to do something extraordinary otherwise it won’t work. We can’t infuse creativity in your bureaucracy,” the CJI remarked.
The CJI also questioned, “If courts, government, everyone is doing so much, why is pollution increasing? Anyone will ask this. What’s going wrong then?”
Referring to the affidavit of the Union Government, the SG said, “There’s continuous and constant monitoring by statutory authorities & sites are closed when found to be non-compliant. Please see, 7722 construction sites were visited.”
The bench also questioned the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) regarding the actions being taken to enforce the directions. Representing the GNCTD, the Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi replied, “There have been inspections. 1578 vehicles have been impounded which were older than 10 and 15 years. Dust prevention was going on at central vista also yesterday.” He urged the bench not to create a task force as the teams of the centre and the state had already constituted inspection teams, and the multiplicity of agencies may add confusion.
Slamming the Delhi government on reopening of schools, the court asked why children are going to school when the government has implemented work from home for adults. To this, Dr Singhvi explained that the schools reopened when the pollution level came down. He also added that the closure of schools would lead to “learning loss” for the students. However, he mentioned that the government is prepared to follow the directions passed by the court.
“Don’t use our shoulder. You are Government, so you have to take action. You are saying whoever wants to come, come, you want to stay at home, stay. If you give an option, everyone will come, who wants to stay at home? We also have children, grandchildren; you have to take a call. Don’t tell us we have to take a call,” the CJI told Dr Singhvi. Environment Minister Gopal Rai said that the schools in Delhi would remain closed from tomorrow till further orders due to air pollution levels.