'Induce creativity in bureaucracy', SC sets 24-hour deadline for Centre, states to act against air pollution

SC minced no words to slam Centre and state governments over the severe air pollution in the national capital and expressed concern that nothing was happening on the ground to improve the air quality

Representative image
Representative image

NH Web Desk

The Supreme Court on Thursday minced no words to slam the Centre and state governments over the severe air pollution in the national capital and expressed concern that nothing was happening on the ground to improve the air quality.

The top court questioned the utility of having a commission for air quality management, if it ends up having on board people from different departments and seems like having no power to enforce decision, and gave 24 hours to the government to come up with concrete ways to curb air pollution.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant said the emergency situation needs emergency measures.

The Chief Justice told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, "You have to work with creativity...if things are not working." In connection with measures to curb air pollution, the Chief Justice added, "We have to do something extraordinary...we cannot enforce or induce creativity in your bureaucracy, you have to come up with some steps".

The bench asked Mehta, 'what is the Commission for Air Quality Management doing and pointed out that the judges went through the names and designation of people in the commission'. "It looks like a government of India organisation with all departments together", said the bench.

Justice Chandrachud said: "Looks like the problem is that this commission has no power of enforcement."

During the hearing, the bench queried, "Despite our orders, pollution level is only going up. Where is it coming from?"

The bench further added that what is the use of a 20-30-member committee (air quality commission)? "It's nothing but another burden on the exchequer", noted the bench.

Mehta said the government is equally concerned about life threatening pollution levels in Delhi and sought one day time to talk to the highest authority and to come out with additional measures to deal with the crisis.

The top court made it crystal clear that it needs to take action within 24 hours to curb air pollution in the capital. The bench said: "If you do not act, we will step in...we have extraordinary steps in mind."

The top court directed Centre and states to be serious on reducing air pollution and scheduled the next hearing on the matter on Friday.

The apex court also came down hard on the Delhi government over its 'Red Light On, Gaadi Off' campaign to curb vehicular pollution, saying it was nothing but a popular slogan.

The bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said the Aam Aadmi Party government had made various assurances such as work from home, lockdown, and closure of schools and colleges in the previous hearings. However, despite these assurances, the children were are going to school while elders are working from home.

"Poor young boys standing in the middle of the road with banners, who is taking care of their health? Again, we've to say, other than the popularity slogan, what else is it?" the bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant said.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Delhi government, referred to the affidavit and said the government had taken various measures.

" This is another cause of pollution, so many affidavits daily," the bench then remarked.

"Is it disclosed in the affidavit how many of these young boys are on the road? For publicity? A young boy standing in the middle of the road with a banner in hand. What is this? Someone has to take care of their health," the bench quipped.

In response, Singhvi said the "boys" were civil volunteers.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had initiated the 'Red Light On, Gaadi Off' campaign from October 21 to November 15, saying that even if 10 lakh vehicles in the city joined the campaign, the PM10 levels would fall by 1.5 tonnes and PM2.5 by 0.4 tonnes in a year.

Under the initiative, government officials from the transport department, volunteers and traffic police urge commuters to switch off their vehicles while waiting for the traffic light to turn green.

The government then extended the campaign till November 30.

A special bench of the Supreme Court is hearing a plea by a 17-year-old Delhi student in connection with severe air pollution in the capital.

with IANS and PTI inputs

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