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Friday, November 27, 2020

Stubble burning: SC keeps its order on Lokur panel on hold as Centre assures law

Terming it a “welcome step”, the CJI said “this is something that the government should have acted on... The only issue is people are choking because of pollution and it is something which must be curbed”

Written by Ananthakrishnan G | New Delhi | October 27, 2020 4:30:18 am
Punjab farm fires send smog signal to Delhi; hope in panchayat actionDespite a statewide ban on burning straw, fields have been on fire every 100-200 metres in Jandiala Guru, Tarsikka, Tarn Taran, Khadur Sahib, and Ajnala blocks of Punjab's Majha belt. (Representational Image)

With the Centre assuring a law on “air quality management” for the National Capital Region, the Supreme Court on Monday kept in abeyance its October 16 order appointing former judge Justice Madan B Lokur to act as a one-man monitoring committee to check stubble burning in the region.

Justice Lokur told The Indian Express that he had already begun work on what was entrusted to him but added that he did not want to comment on Monday’s developments in the apex court.

Appearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India

S A Bobde, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, “We found that several ad hoc steps were taken in the past which may and may not give results. Central Government has taken a holistic view of the matter and is considering bringing a legislation on ‘Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas’ which will put a permanent body in place with participants from all affected areas.”

Terming it a “welcome step”, the CJI said “this is something that the government should have acted on… The only issue is people are choking because of pollution and it is something which must be curbed”. Agreeing, Mehta said the issue must be dealt with on a war footing.

The bench, which also had Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramaian, was hearing a petition by two students — Aditya Dubey and Aman Banka — seeking directions to Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to completely stop stubble burning.

As the SG urged the court to keep its October 16 order appointing Justice Lokur in abeyance, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, who appeared for the petitioners, objected to the request and expressed his apprehension that the law may come into effect only by next year. It was on Singh’s suggestion that the court appointed the Lokur panel on October 16.

“I don’t see why the Union wants the order suspended. Ultimately it is for the benefit of the people of Delhi,” said Singh.

Mehta sought to dispel his fears and said “this government acts fast” and said the law will be placed before the court in just a few days and will be brought into effect quickly.

The court said that in view of the assurance, it will hear the matter next on October 29.

The court said, “Mr Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General of India states that the Union of India has proposed a legislation to tackle the problem which is highlighted in the Public Interest Litigation and that it will be placed before the Court within three to four days. Having regard to the statement, we consider it appropriate that the measures adopted by this Court vide order dated 16.10.2020 be kept in abeyance until further orders.”

The Centre had, during the October 16 hearing, expressed its reservations on the appointment of the Justice Lokur panel.

“There are some reservations with which we do not want to trouble My Lords. I will have to file an application…”, the SG had told the Bench then.

 

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