Act against air pollution before we step in: Supreme Court to Centre

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to arrest rising air pollution levels, lest it step in. The court demanded to know from the government why results on the ground were negligible if everything was good as per compliance report submitted by solicitor general Tushar Mehta.

Mehta said in his submission that the Centre has been active in controlling pollution before the annual smog set in. He said the government began its activities in September. He blamed states, saying they lagged behind in carrying out central orders, especially on closing down polluting industries, switching over to cleaner fuels, shifting out industries banning diesel DG sets, impounding vehicles older than 15 years and managing dust.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, representing petitioner Vikas Dubey then raised the issue of dust from construction of the central vista. “Construction of central vista is going on without taking into account the effect of such work on the health of citizens,” he said. Though construction per se is not a huge contributor to pollution, large projects contribute a huge portion of pollution in the sector, he argued. “All big projects must stop.”

The bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said that it would ask the SG about central vista work, before turning attention to the issue of rising pollution levels. The air quality index was 491 on Monday morning, the CJI said.

Mehta defended the government’s record: “We have done everything. The only thing we haven’t done is take criminal action such as sending people to jail or impose fines.” The court was, however, unhappy with his stance. “Are you implementing anything on the ground,” the CJI queried. “You are saying that everything is good, but results are zero. What is the commission (for Air quality Management in the NCR region) doing except forwarding Supreme Court orders to states? We will set up a task force to deal with this,” the CJI warned the government.

The bench sought to know whether Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have implemented all orders issued by the Centre. It sought a compliance report from the states. The bench also sought a report on whether vista construction was contributing to pollution. The Centre has claimed that the work was going on with ‘precautions to check dust’. The bench will now hear the case again on Thursday, after the state governments file compliance reports.

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