The Supreme Court on Thursday gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the Centre and governments in Delhi and adjoining states to take steps for curbing pollution levels in the National Capital Region, Live Law reported.
The court was hearing a petition seeking emergency steps to control the worsening air pollution situation in Delhi.
Chief Justice of India NV Ramana told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the court would pass orders on Friday if the Centre did not come up with additional measures to tackle the crisis.
“We think that nothing is happening as pollution level is increasing,” Ramana observed, according to Live Law. “We think that we are wasting our time. If courts, government everyone is doing so much, why is pollution increasing? Anyone will ask this.”
The Supreme Court’s comments came on a day when Delhi’s air quality index remained in the “severe” category. The real-time tracker of the Central Pollution Control Board showed that the city’s air quality index was 446 at 1 pm on Thursday.
At Thursday’s hearing, the court reiterated that it could form a task force to ensure implementation of the pollution control measures suggested by the Commission for Air Quality Management. The court noted that the measures were not being implemented at the ground level and that the commission does not have statutory powers to enforce its directions.
On November 16, the Commission for Air Quality Management had issued a slew of directives to curb emissions from industries, thermal power plans and vehicles.
At an earlier hearing of the petition on Monday too, the Supreme Court had mulled over the possibility of forming a task force to implement the directives.
On Thursday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, along with the Delhi government’s counsel Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, listed out the measures taken to comply with the commission’s measures, Bar and Bench reported.
However, the court held that the bureaucracy needs to “infuse creativity” in its actions beyond prosecuting those violating the guidelines.
The Supreme Court also pulled up the Delhi government for reopening schools in the city, while offices were still functioning in the work from home mode. Singhvi argued that the schools had been reopened as online classes were leading to “learning loss”.
To this, Ramana said: “You are saying whoever wants to come [to schools], come, you want to stay at home stay. If you give option, everyone will come, who wants to stay at home. We also have children [and] grandchildren.”
Soon after the hearing, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai said that schools in the city will be shut from Friday till further orders.