Solicitor General Tushar Mehta Tuesday objected to a proposal to withhold a part of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) to verify if a farmer had indulged in stubble burning, saying “tinkering with MSP may not be in the interests of farmers”.
Mehta, who appeared for the Union Environment Ministry before the Supreme Court, was responding to a suggestion in this regard by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad as a measure to check stubble burning. Mehta told a bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde that he will file a reply.
Appearing for Tongad, senior advocate Shyam Divan said measures adopted to control forest fires could be used to prevent stubble burning too. Divan said yet another suggestion was that a portion of the MSP be withheld to verify if a farmer has indulged in stubble burning or not.
Tongad pointed out in his application that though the court had last year ordered that Rs 100 per quintal be paid to farmers who had not burnt stubble, “the central and state governments have not arrived at any conclusion with respect to the responsibility of giving this”.
Pointing out that the Centre “has… taken progressive steps to address the issue of agricultural residue burning, at least on the face of it”, he added that “notwithstanding repeated judicial interventions, administrative instructions, and governmental measures to eradicate the practice of stubble burning, the change on field is far from desirable”.
He said it was extremely important to control crop burning in the coming months, especially in view of the Covid situation, otherwise it will deteriorate air quality and become life threatening for Covid-19 patients.
The bench, also comprising Justice A S Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramaian, agreed to examine the plea.
The top court also issued notices to the Centre and Punjab, Haryana and Delhi governments on a plea by Class XII student Aditya Dubey and law student Aman Banka, which sought directions to provide free of cost stubble-removing machines to small and marginal farmers to check the menace.
Their plea said stubble burning contributes to almost 40% of air pollution in Delhi.
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