Written by: Shivangi Arora (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
Following the festive season, one of the largest killers’ ‘POLLUTION’ is rearing its ugly head in the capital. The alarming state of pollution has once again drawn the Apex Court’s attention towards it. On 29 October 2021, the Supreme Court bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice AS Bopanna issued various directions to implement its earlier order which banned the use of barium-based chemicals in firecrackers and allowing only the use of “green crackers” and warned of stringent consequences upon the violations of the directions. It also held that authorities shall be held personally liable for a contravention of these directions. Despite SC’s reiterative directions, the Air Quality slipped to hazardous levels.
On November 13, the bench comprising of CJI NV Ramana, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant was hearing the petition filed by an environmental activist Aditya Dubey (Case Title- Aditya Dubey vs. UOI and Others) which was to seek directions from the Court to provide appropriate stubble removing machinery free of cost to small and marginal farmers by the respondent states namely Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Though Stubble Burning is a criminal offence under Section 188, IPC and also under the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 it is still practised due to lack of viable alternatives. In the case of MC Mehta (stubble burning) vs UOI, 2020, it was observed by Apex Court that stubble burning causes a serious kind of pollution that threatens “the right to life” guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
While hearing the responses filed by the Delhi Government and Centre, the bench rebuked them for bashing the farmers and holding stubble burning solely responsible for the current situation. The Court also condemned the governments for the failure to implement the directions issued by the Court in light of the Firecracker Ban. In the wake of the above situation, Supreme Court reprimanded the Centre Government and State Governments to take necessary measures to rescue the choked national capital. The Court advised the Delhi Government to consider a Two-Day Lockdown in the capital city to allow the air to replenish.
At the outset it is submitted that the legislature had enacted the Commission of Quality Management in the National Capital Region Adjoining Areas Act 2021, to take measures and issue direction to protect and improve air quality. The commission through the affidavit submitted some measures to curb pollution.
On November 15, the bench highlighted Stubble Burning by farmers, bursting of Firecrackers during festivities, Vehicular and Industrial Emission in Delhi and surrounding regions as prime causes of AQI degradation. This was based on the Centre’s submission which mentioned that stubble burning amounts to only 10% of the total pollution. The court expressed dissatisfaction with the submissions made by the Commission of Quality Management in the National Capital Region Adjoining Areas Act 2021 calling them long-term measures and hereby asking the Union Government to hold an emergency meeting. Clear intimidation was given on part of the Apex Court to bring down the AQI up to 200.
As a result of judicial interference, the Delhi Government along with the State Government of the surrounding areas namely NCR, considering the guidelines issued by the Apex Court has shut down schools for a week. Delhi Government ordered to shut all the construction and demolition work and all the Government offices in Delhi have been asked to operate from home for two days while private offices have been asked to adhere to the same.
On November 16, Delhi Government submitted to the court that it is open towards imposing complete lockdown to curb pollution menace while adding that such a measure would be effective if only the regions surrounding the capital and NCR goes with the same.
The discussions to tackle this pollution menace are still in a row while the heartland city continues to be the gas chamber.