Taking note of the enormity of alarming rise in pollution levels, Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to respond within 48 hours and give details about its policy or a “disaster management plan” to deal with the prevailing situation in the national capital region. The court also considered the submission on alleged differences among various authorities and between Centre and the Delhi government and asked them to devise a “common minimum programme” at least for taking steps to deal with the pollution menace.
“We want to know whether you (Centre) have any disaster management plan. Do you have a policy which deals with graded responses to the situation and provides what action would be taken at which stage?
“What is the protocol? Now the time has come where we need to have this,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A K Sikri and S A Bobde said.
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During the 30-minute long hearing, the bench sought to know from Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, representing the Centre, about the policy to deal with the rising pollution levels and asked whether the Centre monitored the situation.
There should be a policy with regard to steps to be taken at every stage such as at level one, particular decisions would be taken and at level two, odd-even scheme would be implemented and at level three, schools would be closed, the bench suggested while giving illustrations on possible graded responses to emerging situations.
The Solicitor General said unregulated “commercialisation” and “industrialisation” of Delhi was one of the reasons for the present situation. “In last 60 years, Delhi has grown in such a manner where there has been unregulated urbanisation. The vehicles have grown in numbers. If you cover a distance in one hour and 20 in contrast to 20 minutes, then it adds to pollution,” he said and sought two days time from the court to seek instructions from the Centre in the matter.
Meanwhile, Delhi government informed the court that it has so far acquired six vacuum cleaning vehicles and two have been already made functional. At the outset, Aparajita Singh, who along with senior advocate Harish Salve have been appointed as amicus curiae in the matter, apprised the court about the prevailing situation in Delhi and NCR and referred to the report filed by the apex court-appointed committee, Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (PEA).
Sunita Narain of EPCA also termed the situation as a case of “public health emergency” and said it required close monitoring to ensure “stringent” enforcement of earlier directions of the Supreme Court.
On monitoring and restricting the inflow of trucks whose final destination is not Delhi from entering the capital, the bench inquired from the counsel of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh about the procedures and protocol being followed.
“How do you regulate this? Do you ask vehicle drivers as to where they are going? What are the training given to policemen or toll operators,” the bench asked, adding “what establishment have you (states) set up for diversion of traffic before they enter Delhi?” The bench then inquired about the reported fact that the Delhi government has “severe” staff limitations to carry out such diversions.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the AAP-led Delhi government, apprised the bench about the actions taken in pursuance of the apex court directions on the issue. “So far, we have acquired six vacuum cleaning vehicles. Two have been made functional,” she said. The bench enquired about the total requirement and when the government came out with the tender notice.
“Do you have any estimate as to how many such vehicles you want to get to deal with the situation,” the bench asked.
Sixteen such vehicles are to be purchased, she said, adding “vacuum cleaning vehicles can be used on main roads and cannot be used on narrow arterial roads”.
Amicus curiae Singh, during the hearing, apprised the apex court about the complaint redressal mechanism and said when such complaints are received on EPCA’s website, it forwards them to authorities concerned for redressal.