STATING THAT the whole of Delhi will have to shut down for one day if “dreaded” and “severe” pollution is not checked, the Supreme Court Tuesday observed that it may completely ban bursting of firecrackers, including during religious festivals.
“The limit has gone beyond human tolerance… It has become dangerous for human life. It is a disaster and you must have a disaster management plan for this. The time has come when you have to have a policy; a concrete plan,” a bench led by Chief Justice T S Thakur told the counsel for the Centre and the Delhi government.
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The bench, also comprising Justice A K Sikri and Justice S A Bobde, observed that there could be different levels of pollution, requiring different sets of measures, but it must be contained before a “lethal” situation arises.
“Suppose when pollution is at level A, you start odd-even rule for vehicles. When it is at level B, you ban construction; at level C, you shut down schools too; at level D, you shut down power plants, etc. But there could now be a level E when you will have to shut down the whole of Delhi. Do you have a plan?” asked the apex court.
It asked Solicitor General (SG) Ranjit Kumar, who appeared for the Centre, if there was a protocol to deal with a situation when pollution intensifies to a level where lives of people are in peril. “You must have a policy. We are not saying that your policy will be perfect, but there must be something to start with. You can have a policy and then revise it according to the needs. Take into account various suggestions and start working towards having a sensible policy,” the bench told the SG.
Acknowledging the urgency of the situation, Kumar said he needed only 48 hours to discuss all issues with the environment secretary. “The problem of pollution in the capital is a cumulative problem… related to unplanned development, lack of infrastructure, mixed land use where commercial entities operate from residential areas and so on. Give me 48 hours and I will come back to the court with our response,” said the SG.
Meanwhile, one of the lawyers — appearing for a clutch of PILs on pollution in Delhi-NCR — raised the issue of banning firecrackers. He apprised the bench that the Delhi government has prohibited firecrackers, except during religious functions.
“Why are firecrackers being allowed for religious functions? You (governments) will have to look into it… We may ban it completely… that (ban) we are going to do,” it said, while fixing Thursday for the next hearing.
The bench also pulled up the Delhi government over its laxity in procuring various equipment, including vacuum cleaners, to prevent dust.
When apprised that the latest tender to get 15 vacuum cleaners was floated only a week ago, the court said, “So there is a breach of our order (passed in December last year). Do you realise you are in breach not only of your obligation towards people but also in breach of our directions? Do you always act only when there is a crisis… an emergency situation?”
Senior lawyer Indira Jaising, appearing for the AAP government, said it would expedite the process.