The Supreme Court on Thursday called the petitions challenging Delhi’s odd-even scheme a publicity stunt while praising it for curbing air pollution in the capital, a day before the radical road rationing plan to clear up the city’s toxic air was scheduled to end.
“People are dying due to pollution. We are car-pooling and you want to challenge it,” a bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said.
The petitioners had appealed for an urgent SC hearing against a Delhi high court order that refused to cut short the 15-day initiative, saying it was a policy decision based on expert knowledge.
But the court declined the request, warning that it would impose heavy fines on frivolous petitions against the Aam Aadmi Party’s scheme.
The plan - that allows odd and even-numbered cars on city roads on alternate days - is scheduled to end on January 15 and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has already rejected rumours that it would be extended, saying his government wanted time to assess the impact of the experiment on air quality.
But the jury is still out on the success of the plan with many saying the city witnessed a marginal dip in pollution during the trial period, though several commuters have reported fewer traffic jams and smoother commutes.
For a fortnight, millions of Delhi residents have crammed themselves into buses and the Metro, affluent families have carpooled to work, and though authorities have fined 2,685 errant drivers, compliance has been mostly enthusiastic.
But critics say the city’s public transport system is inadequate to handle the heavy commuter load and that the odd-even scheme did little to curb air pollution.
Kejriwal, however, has defended the scheme as an emergency measure to rein in off-the-charts pollution in Delhi, where the air is one of the filthiest in the world.
Growing concerns about the fumes has forced the judiciary in recent months to enforce stringent measures, including a temporary ban on new registration of diesel vehicles, tougher norms for industries and preventing many trucks from entering the city.
(With inputs from agencies)