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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

‘That Emergency was better than this’: Supreme Court on toxic Delhi air

The court had in the earlier round of hearing lashed out at the Delhi and central government for trying to pass the buck.

india Updated: Nov 04, 2019 16:51 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The 24-hour average Air Quality Index (AQI) value on Monday morning was 437 and the average level of PM2.5 – the finer and more harmful of the particulates – was more than seven times the safe levels. ((Photo by Amal KS /HT)
The 24-hour average Air Quality Index (AQI) value on Monday morning was 437 and the average level of PM2.5 – the finer and more harmful of the particulates – was more than seven times the safe levels. ((Photo by Amal KS /HT)
         

Two judges of the Supreme Court on Monday explored various options to quickly improve the national capital Delhi’s toxic air that the court opined was killing people because various government agencies weren’t doing their job. At one point, Justice Arun Mishra, who was attempting to drive home the point to officials about the poor air quality, said: “This (situation in Delhi) is worse than Emergency. That Emergency was better than this emergency.”

The 24-hour average Air Quality Index (AQI) value on Monday morning was 437 and the average level of PM2.5 – the finer and more harmful of the particulates – was more than seven times the safe levels. Apart from emissions from vehicular traffic in Delhi, experts also blame farm fires in neighbouring states that were, on Friday last, estimated to be responsible for 46 per cent of the city.

Environment Prevention and Control Authority chairman Bhure Lal, who came to the court after the judges resumed the hearing - it had paused the hearing for 30 minutes to wait for an expert to participate in the hearing - told the court that he would ask the judges to hold the chief secretaries personally responsible for enforcement of the ban on stubble burning.

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The court was told that Haryana had shaped up and checked stubble burning, Punjab had not. As the judges bounced ideas off the law officers and experts, Justice Mishra indicated that the court was inclined to summon the chief secretaries and order removal of cops and officials who do not control stubble burning.

“We have no sympathy for the farmers. They cannot kill people with complete knowledge of what they’re doing,” Justice Mishra said.

The court had in the earlier round of hearing lashed out at the Delhi and central government for trying to pass the buck. “It can’t go on like this. It’s too much,” the court said.

But the judges had made it clear early in the day that they felt the state governments were responsible for controlling stubble burning and must be made answerable. “They are only interested in electioneering. They have no responsibility towards their own people… Everybody is interested in gimmicks and elections,” the bench 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.