The Supreme Court on Saturday directed the government to take urgent steps to tackle the severe air pollution in Delhi, Live Law reported. Chief Justice NV Ramana said the situation is so bad that the city’s residents have to wear masks even at home.
“Tell us how immediately we can reduce AQI [air quality index] by 200 points,” Ramana asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta while hearing a petition related to the deteriorating air quality in the Capital. “If required, think of two days of lockdown or something, how will people live?”
Justice DY Chandrachud expressed concern about schoolchildren being exposed to the pollution. “[All India Institute of Medical Sciences chief] Dr [Randeep] Guleria said there is Covid, dengue and pollution and children are going out in this kind of weather,” he said, according to NDTV.
The court asked the Centre and the states to inform it about the proposed measures to tackle the pollution in Delhi by Monday, when it will take up the case again.
Delhi remained shrouded in smog on Saturday. The city’s air quality index was 473, which falls in the “severe” category, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, or Safar.
Air pollution in Delhi gets worse in October and November because of farmers burning stubble in neighbouring states, unfavourable wind speed and emission of fumes by the local traffic in the city.
At the Supreme Court hearing on Saturday, Mehta said that there had been a spurt in stubble burning in Punjab over the last few days. “Punjab needs to buckle up,” he said, according to Live Law. “I am not making this adversarial.”
But court pointed out that there are also other factors contributing to the pollution in Delhi. “You are projecting as if farmers are responsible,” Ramana told Mehta. “What about the Delhi people? What about the steps to regulate firecrackers, vehicular emissions?”
Justice Surya Kant noted that it had “become a fashion to bash the farmers”. “There was a ban on firecrackers, what happened with that?” he asked. “What has been happening in last seven days? What was the Delhi Police doing?”
Mehta sought to clarify that he was not putting the blame on farmers. “Please don’t take it that government, state or Centre is putting this on farmers,” he told the judges. “There is not a remote intention of suggesting that.”
The solicitor general added that the Centre and states will have an emergency meeting on the pollution crisis today. “Colour of political parties does not matter,” he said, according to Bar and Bench. “It [combating pollution] is a joint responsibility.. but implementation has to be at state level,” Mehta said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has called a meeting to discuss the air pollution situation in the Capital, according to PTI. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Health Minister Satyendar Jain, Environment Minister Gopal Rai and the chief secretary will attend the meeting.