Supreme court judgement on Delhi air pollution

M. C. Mehta Vs Union of India & Others dated 25/11/2019

Rising air pollution in Delhi National Capital Region especially due to stubble burning and vehicular pollution.

FACTS: The air quality in Delhi, is the worst of any major city in the world. In Delhi, poor quality air irreversibly damages the lungs of 2.2 million or 50 percent of all children, as it is the fifth largest killer in India. Vehicular traffic is blamed for a major chunk 40% of the air pollution. Stubble burning by neighboring states such as Punjab, Haryana and Western UP has also contributed to the worsening situation.

PROCEEDINGS: The air quality measured in terms of Air Quality Index remained severe plus in the National Capital Region prompting the court to register a suo motu Public Interest Litigation so that it could get the executive authorities to take this up as an emergency issue. “The whole of north India is suffering, but little has been done,” the bench with quorum Hon’ble Mr. Arun Mishra and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Deepak Gupta said taking up the issue suo motu.

Smog towers: The Supreme Court on November 13, 2019 directed the Union of India as well as the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi to convene a meeting for working out the feasibility of installation of smog towers which would take care of smog in the city within a certain kilometer range. Day to day Reports: Further, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has been asked to “produce the record of each and every day from November 2, 2019, including that of November 11 and 12, 2019, which were not odd/even days, till November 14, 2019.” Hydrogen-based fuels: The Supreme Court asked the Government to come back with a report by December 3 on whether it was feasible to switch from the current fossil-based fuels to hydrogen-based fuels like Japan to check air pollution.

Duel Fuels: The apex court also heard the matter of conversion to duel fuel. It directed the concerned persons to file their response, as the Government of India has said that conversion to duel fuel is possible. Ban on Stubble Burning: The Supreme Court, which had ordered a complete ban on stubble burning in states around Delhi, on Nov 25 lashed out at the Centre and the states for their failure to do anything to improve the quality of air in national capital Delhi.

to States: The court also issued notices to all the states concerned, asking them to provide details of air quality levels as well as the measures being implemented to tackle the dispersal of pollutants. It also issued notices to the governments of Delhi and its surrounding states, asking why they should not be made liable to compensate people for being forced to drink unpotable water and breathe impure air.

Farmers responsibility: The Apex Court said that the court orders have not been complied with and that “not only the State machinery is responsible, but the farmers are also responsible.”

January 17, 2020: The states of Punjab, Haryana, and the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi have been asked to respond on the issue of air pollution and “why the concerned Government and its concerned machinery, from top to bottom, should not be asked to compensate the citizens of Delhi and adjoining areas for various diseases which are being caused and sufferings and troubles which are being faced.” Show cause notice was also issued to the above mentioned state governments and to the Chief Secretaries to submit reply within six weeks. The Chief Secretaries have to be personally present before the court on January 17, 2020.

Compensation: The SC ordered that notice be issued to the counsel appearing on behalf of the farmers on “why the orders of this Court have been violated and why the farmers should not be asked to pay the compensation which may be determined by this Court and why the burden should not be fastened upon them also.” The SC also wanted reports to be submitted on smog towers and anti smog guns to control air pollution. “Delhi has become worse than narak (hell). Life is not so cheap in India and you have to pay. How much do you value a person’s life?” , the court asked the Delhi government, saying that it has “ right to be in the chair”.


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