The Supreme Court on Wednesday lashed out at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, for backing out of a government project to install a smog tower in Delhi to fight pollution, Live Law reported. The court warned the institute of contempt proceedings.

In December, the top court had directed the Delhi government and the Centre to set up a smog tower, essentially a large air purifier, at Connaught Place within three months. The court had directed IIT-Bombay to take responsibility for the project. A professor from the institute was also a part of the committee formed to provide technical expertise for the project.

During the top court hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that IIT-Bombay had written a letter to the government, saying that it will withdraw from the project and the government was now holding discussions with IIT-Delhi and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute to complete the project.

A furious Justice Arun Mishra asked how IIT-Bombay could walk out of the project. “This is nonsense what IIT is saying,” he said. “We will take strict action against them. This [is] contempt.” The court asked Mehta why he had not responded to IIT-Bombay letter’s stating its withdrawal from project.

Mishra demanded that Mehta obtain a response from IIT-Bombay within 30 minutes. “Call IIT-Bombay and we will hear within half an hour,” the court said, according to NDTV. “I cannot in 15 minutes,” Mehta pleaded with the top court. “Give me 24 hours. Nothing will change in 24 hours. Your lordship, please put yourself in my position.”

The top court listed the case for hearing on Friday on Mehta’s request but said that it was “not at all happy with the state of affairs”.

In January, the Central Pollution Control Board had drawn up a draft memorandum of understanding for the smog tower project. On July 24, the Ministry of Environment, CPCB and IIT-Bombay held a meeting to address certain concerns related to the draft.

IIT-Bombay had told the Centre at the meeting that it will not be able to certify the design of the smog tower by the University of Minnesota as it does not have expertise in these areas, and, that it can only undertake “the work of validation of performance of smog tower which is in variance with the original proposal submitted by IIT Bombay,” according to an affidavit filed by the Centre in the Supreme Court on July 20.

Earlier in July, IIT-Bombay had expressed its inability to accept the conditions of the draft MoU, like taking overall responsibility for the project, NDTV reported.

The government has already sanctioned Rs 18.52 crore for the smog tower project, according to PTI.

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