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Pollution hearing: Delhi government targets Centre, High Court slams both

Bench warns it could invoke contempt of court if work is not done.

Smog and fog contributed to a hazy day in Delhi Thursday. (Express Photo by: Prem Nath Pandey) Smog and fog contributed to a hazy day in Delhi Thursday. (Express Photo by: Prem Nath Pandey)

The Delhi High Court Thursday pulled up the AAP government and the Centre during a hearing on a PIL over air pollution, saying, “No one seems to be keen on implementing the law. Each government is at the other’s neck.”

A bench of Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva also noted the city was “suffering” due to “decades of laxity”, adding that it seemed that neither the Delhi government nor the Centre was interested in taking concrete steps with regard to air pollution.

Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra informed the court that “officials” were “not cooperating” with the state government in implementing court orders in the case. Mehra made the submission after the bench expressed ire over delay in filing of status reports and data on felling of trees and encroachments in Delhi’s forest areas.

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Mehra said the officer appointed to conduct the survey had “gone on leave” and other officials were “not willing” to do the work. Referring to a batch of cases pending before the Chief Justice on the issue of dispute between the Delhi government and the Centre, Mehra also said the state government had been “unable to take action” against erring officials as the central government “overturned the decisions”.

The court, however, came down heavily on both the Delhi government and Centre for failing to implement its orders, and warned it “could invoke contempt of court action” if the work was not done.

“If you cannot govern, tell the people that you cannot govern. Do we tell you that we cannot deliver judgments due to some compulsion? If you do not comply with our orders, we would be compelled to take recourse to Contempt of Court Act and then you cry hoarse against the same…” commented the bench, adding the government could “remove the officials” who were not working.

Thereafter, the government told the court that S S Gill, special secretary of department of urban development, would take up the job that was being done by the official on leave.

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The court noted both governments had failed to take any action in response to orders issued by it in September last year for a proper action plan to tackle air pollution and conduct a survey in Delhi. The court also asked the Centre why it had not yet called a meeting of the National Capital Region Planning Board and the officials of the NCR states despite its orders issued in December.

“Do you not even listen to your ministers?” asked the bench, commenting on the fact that the NCRPB action plan was mooted by the Environment Minister at a meeting in April 2015. The court directed the Delhi government, the civic agencies, and the Centre to “give names” of “nodal officers” who would be appointed to ensure that its orders are complied with. The court had issued similar orders for an action plan and nodal officers in September.

The court noted that Delhi Pollution Control Committee, represented by advocate Sanjeev Ralli, was the only body which had filed an action plan. Amicus curiae, senior advocate Kailash Vasdev, told the court he had not been given a copy of the report, and would make his remarks on the data on the next date of hearing on January 28.

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The bench praised the odd-even policy of the Delhi government, commenting it had a positive impact on traffic congestion. The court, however, pulled up traffic police for “failing” to introduce any such “novel ideas” to reduce congestion.

First published on: 15-01-2016 at 02:35:22 am
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