The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre’s Air Quality Commission to take a decision on relaxing restrictions imposed by the court on construction work, industries and other such activities within a week, The Hindu reported.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana noted that the air quality in Delhi has started improving.

The Supreme Court has been hearing petitions seeking emergency steps to control the worsening air pollution in Delhi and its neighbouring states.

During Friday’s hearing, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing a group of rice manufacturers, told the court that his clients only want a quick decision from the Air Quality Commission.

“Mr Sibal, we are all in Delhi,” Chief Justice Ramana said in response. “We know the condition. “Just now things have started improving. They [the panel] will take a decision.”

The court also directed the Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan governments to comply with an order requiring states in the National Capital Region to pay minimum wages to construction workers whose work was stopped because of the ban. The wages are to be paid from a cess collected by them from real estate companies.

The court directed the two state government to submit compliance affidavits during the next hearing.

Closure notices for violation of norms

Meanwhile, the Centre in an affidavit told the Supreme Court that it has served 228 closure notices this year to industrial units, diesel generation sets and construction firms for violation of pollution control guidelines in the Delhi-National Capital Region, reported India Today.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Union government and the Air Quality Commission, told the court that numerous long-term measures are being considered to deal with air pollution, according to PTI.

On December 1, Delhi’s average air quality index for November was 377 – the worst in six years, according to the Central Pollution Control Board.

A day later, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that it had constituted a five-member enforcement task force to ensure that pollution control measures are not being violated.

In the affidavit, the Centre said that its task force had inspected 1,534 sites for violation of pollution norms, following which the closure notices were issued.

Since the majority of violations were reported from the industrial sector, the Centre told the court that it may advocate use of cleaner fuels among these units.

The government also told the court that thermal power plants that were closed amid rising pollution levels have to be restarted by December 15 to ensure uninterrupted power supply to Delhi-NCR.

“While the number of thermal power plants that can be shut down cannot be further increased, even shutting down the six plants within a 300 km radius of Delhi would also not be feasible beyond 15.12.2021, in view of the electricity scenario,” the affidavit stated.

Meanwhile, real-time data available on System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, or Safar, showed that Delhi’s overall Air Quality Index was at 306 as of 3.15 pm on Friday,

Air Quality Index, or AQI, between zero and 50 is considered “good’’, 51 and 100 “satisfactory’’, 101 and 200 “moderate’’, 201 and 300 “poor’’, 301 and 400 “very poor’’, and 401 and 500 “severe’’.