The Supreme Court on Saturday told the Delhi government to stop blaming farmers for the severe air pollution in the city while asking a series of questions on how it is dealing with pollution caused due to firecrackers, dust, industries and vehicles.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and also comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant queried senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, as to what happened to the smog tower, and whether it was still functioning.
In his response, Mehra said the tower is working and pointed out that on September 30 the Air Quality Index (AQI) was 84 or ‘satisfactory’, adding that after over a month it was 471 (severe), while the PM2.5 and PM10 were also at critical levels.
“Probably, it is due to stubble burning,” he said.
Justice Kant said: “It has now become a fashion to blame the farmers.. What happened to the firecracker ban? What is the Delhi Police doing?” The bench added that it is an emergency situation and emergency measures will have to be taken, whether it is a prohibition on vehicles or emission control.
The Chief Justice told Mehra: “Why don’t you think of some emergency steps… Find a way to stop vehicles on some days.”
Justice Chandrachud told Mehra that the Delhi government opened schools and there is a threat to the lungs of children due to air pollution, adding that “this is not the Centre, but your jurisdiction. What is happening on that front?”
The Chief Justice said stubble burning may be part of the problem, but not the only issue behind severe air pollution in the capital.
Mehra, in response, said: “We realise that this situation of pollution in Delhi is like smoking 20 cigarettes a day.”
Concluding the hearing, the Chief Justice told Mehra: “We are listing it on Monday. Tell us about emergency steps taken.” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said it is nobody’s case that farmers should be held responsible for the air pollution.
The top court was hearing a plea by a minor boy seeking directions against stubble burning and other factors associated with high pollution levels in Delhi-NCR.