‘Only interested in gimmicks’: Supreme Court rebukes govt over Delhi’s toxic air
As air pollution levels in national capital Delhi and much of north India continued to remain beyond emergency levels, the Supreme Court on Monday panned the central and Delhi government machinery for passing the buck and not doing enough to take steps in time. “Delhi is choking every year and we are unable to do anything,” a bench of the Supreme Court said.
The bench, furious at the inability of the government to take adequate steps, put the hearing on hold and ordered the government to ensure the presence of an expert and member of the Environment Prevention and Control Authority in 30 minutes when it will take up the air pollution in Delhi again.
The 24-hour average Air Quality Index (AQI) value on Monday morning was 437. It had touched 494 around 4 pm on Sunday. The average level of PM2.5 – the finer and more harmful of the particulates – was more than seven times the safe levels on Monday morning. It had shot up to nine times on Sunday.
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According to the Centre’s System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research, satellites captured over 3,000 incidents of farm fires last week in Punjab and Haryana. They contribute 46% of Delhi’s pollution on Friday last, the season’s highest.
“The state machinery is not acting… they are passing the buck to each other… Whether the Centre should do or Delhi should do… it can’t go on like this. It’s too much,” the court observed.
Responding to the Centre telling the top court that chief secretaries had been told to stop stubble burning, the judges signalled that the bench would see what concrete steps can be taken to stop burning of paddy stubble in states such as Punjab and Haryana.
“States are responsible.. Must be made answerable under the law of torts… They are only interested in electioneering. They have no responsibility towards their own people,” Justice Arun Mishra said.
“Everybody is interested in gimmicks and elections,” Justice Mishra said after the judges were given a bundle of reasons for air pollution levels that have led authorities to shut down schools in Delhi and suburbs.
The top court said this had turned into an annual affair.
“Every year this is happening… Every year, Delhi is choking for 10 to 15 days. This cannot happen in a civilised country. In case people don’t know how to respect their rights, then they have no right… The right to life is most important,” the court said.