The Delhi high court declined on Monday to interfere with the Aam Aadmi Party government’s 15-day odd-even road rationing scheme, saying it was a policy decision based on “expert knowledge” to clean up the city’s toxic air.
Hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the pilot project, a bench of chief justice G Rohini and justice Jayant Nath said interference by the court wasn’t warranted, clearing the decks for the initiative to continue as scheduled until January 15.
“The implementation of the odd-even scheme may have caused hardship to a section of the society. However, the power of judicial review cannot be extended to determine the correctness of such a policy decision,” the bench said.
Delhi transport minister Gopal Rai thanked the high court for its verdict.
The bench also asked the Delhi government to consider the issues raised in the 11 different petitions before coming out with similar scheme in the future.
Delhi’s air pollution is one of the worst in the world and the growing concern over the city’s filthy air 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.
Last week, the high court bench had asked the government if data already collected “was enough” to gauge the effectiveness of the scheme.
“Why is it necessary to have it for 15-days...? Is there any better method which can be brought in?” the court had asked on Friday, reserving its verdict for January 11.
But the government defended the policy, saying it has a “definite positive” effect on air pollution and told the HC that it may extend it beyond the trial period.
Appearing for the Delhi government, senior counsel Harish Salve had submitted a status report on data collected from January 1 to 8, calling the plan a result of the “emergency” situation that has arisen because of the high levels of air pollution.
He had also submitted a report by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, which stated that pollution in Delhi this winter has been four times beyond the safety standard.
“There has not been a single good air quality day this winter. Pollution is not going to go away. The odd-even scheme is an emergency measure to arrest the peaking of the air pollution levels,” Salve had said
He added the scheme had succeeded in arresting the upward trend in air pollution – a claim disputed by experts, who allege the plan has only effected a marginal drop.
The AAP government had also told the court it was in the process of buying more buses to augment the fleet of the city’s existing public transport system.