Taking up the issue of air pollution in Delhi, the Supreme Court Monday banned all construction activities and garbage burning in the National Capital Region (NCR), with a fine of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5,000 respectively for those violating the order.
In a stinging observation, the court said state governments should be held legally responsible for “allowing people in neighbouring places to die”. “Who is responsible? The state governments are responsible. They are only interested in electioneering. They are allowing people in neighbouring places to die. They have to be actionable in tort,” a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said.
“Delhi has been choking every year and we have not been able to do anything…This can’t be done in a civilised society… Goverments are only passing the buck…Why should there be crop burning?” the court asked.
The Supreme Court is considering the report submitted by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) — a panel it had appointed — on Delhi’s pollution and also taking up issues like stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana.
The amicus curiae, senior advocate Aparajita Singh, Monday informed the court that as per the Centre’s affidavit, crop burning had gone up by 7 per cent in Punjab, but reduced by 17 per cent in Haryana.
“No one is safe even inside homes; this is atrocious. Can we survive in this atmosphere? This is not the way we can survive. This (situation in Delhi) is worse than Emergency. That Emergency was better than this emergency,” the court said.
It also observed that gram pradhans, police personnel and local officials who do not control stubble burning should be removed from their posts.
Air quality in Delhi continued to be in the severe category on Monday, even as the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) called a review meeting on the issue on Sunday. A statement released by the PMO said that the Cabinet Secretary will be monitoring the situation with Delhi, Punjab and Haryana on a daily basis. Chief Secretaries of the states have also been asked to monitor the situation in various districts round the clock.
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