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Friday, Dec 13, 2019

‘Be here else…’: SC warns chief secretaries of 3 states on Delhi’s deadly air

The apex court, also described the emergency level of the toxic air worse than Emergency and told chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to be present in court when it resumes hearing on the matter on November 6.

india Updated: Nov 04, 2019 19:43 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The directives from the Supreme Court come amid Delhi’s air quality reaching hazardous levels.
The directives from the Supreme Court come amid Delhi’s air quality reaching hazardous levels.(Mohd Zakir/HT photo)
         

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a string of six directions to governments in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh and demanded strict compliance, warning that it would hold the top bureaucrats of states accountable for enforcing a complete ban on stubble burning that was blamed for 46 per cent of the national capital’s air pollution load over the weekend.

The judges also questioned the logic of the odd-even vehicle rationing system that started in the capital today and told the city government to come back with the data to make a case for it at the next hearing on Wednesday.

The court, which described the emergency level of the toxic air worse than Emergency, also told chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to be present in court when it resumes hearing on November 6.

“Let Chief Secretary be here.. be here… be here.... We will postpone your assembly otherwise,” a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra ordered, observing that people couldn’t be left to die.

The bench also stopped all construction activities in Delhi and the National Capital Region, banned garbage burning and directed the Centre and states to work out its disposal on a war footing, ordered sprinkling of water to prevent dust pollution and banned power cuts in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and UP so that no one ends up using diesel generators.

The court made it clear that it would penalise top officials starting from the chief secretary - the senior-most bureaucrat in the states - to the local administration officer, if found guilty in not taking steps to stop air pollution.

“We direct all the governments of Delhi and various corporations to work in tandem to see that waste which is contributing to pollution should be tackled immediately,” the bench said at the end of a marathon hearing that stretched for over two hours with a 30 minute break in between.

According to data released by the World Health Organization last year, India had the world’s 10 most polluted cities. Three of them - Gurugram, Faridabad and Noida - are next door to Delhi, which was listed as the 11th most polluted city in this ranking.

Early in Monday’s hearing, Justice Mishra rued how the national capital chokes on a deadly cocktail of harmful pollutants and gases every year and yet, nothing was ever done.

“They are only interested in electioneering. They have no responsibility towards their own people… Everybody is interested in gimmicks and elections,” the judge said furious at efforts by the central and state governments to throw the ball in each other’s court.

The court also roped in the SHO of the local police station to ensure steps are taken to stop stubble burning in the states adjoining Delhi. “It is a shocking state of affairs....there cannot be large scale exodus of people from Delhi. Delhi cannot be evacuated”, the bench said.