The Supreme Court on Tuesday registered on its own a case related to the alarming rise in pollution in Delhi-National Capital Region, PTI reported. The matter will be heard on Wednesday.

Air quality in Delhi continued to remain in the “very poor” and “severe” categories on Tuesday, according to the Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research. On Sunday, pollution had plummeted to the season’s worst level as a public health emergency declared last Friday continued.

The Supreme Court also summoned Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Kumar Dev, saying authorities cannot allow a mass exodus of people afraid about severe pollution cutting down their life span. The court also asked the chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to appear before it on Wednesday.

“This is blatant and grave violation of right to life of the sizeable population by all these actions and the scientific data, which has been pointed out indicates that life span of the people is being reduced by this kind of pollution...which is being created,” the court said. “And that people are being advised not to come back to Delhi or to leave the Delhi due to severe pollution condition which has been created.”

The court termed the situation a “shocking state of affairs”. “There cannot be large-scale exodus,” said Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta. “People have to perform their duty in Delhi also and people cannot be evacuated from Delhi being a capital city.”

The judges said authorities had “violated with impunity” directions passed by it and High Courts. “Time has come when we have to fix the accountability for this kind of situation which has arisen and is destroying right to life itself in gross violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

On Monday, the Supreme Court had ordered that all stubble burning activities in Haryana and Punjab be stopped immediately. Mishra said “this cannot happen in a civilised country”. The judge added: “Right to life is the most important... ‘We want to burn our crop and let others die’, we can’t live like this. Farmers cannot kill others for their own livelihood. We have no sympathy for farmers if they keep burning crop.”

The court has also asked the Delhi government to produce evidence by Friday that its odd-even vehicles scheme was working.

Now, follow and debate the day’s most significant stories on Scroll Exchange.