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Delhi pollution: SC clears govt plan to enforce counter measures

Krishnadas Rajagopal | | Updated on: Dec 03, 2021
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Enforcement Task Force, flying squads to prevent and penalise polluters in Delhi NCR

The Supreme Court on Friday approved the measures by the Centre’s Air Quality Commission to create an ‘Enforcement Task Force’ and flying squads to prevent and penalise polluters in Delhi NCR.

Appearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, said the task force was formed on December 2.

Mehta, reading out from an affidavit filed by the Commission, informed the Court that 17 flying squads were formed on Thursday and would be increased to 40 in the next 24 hours. These have already conducted 25 surprise checks. These squads directly report to the task force.

“The task force has two independent members. It will meet at 6 pm everyday and will take action on behalf of the Commission against violators,” the Solicitor General submitted.

Justice DY Chandrachud, on the Bench, asked whether the flying squads would be confined to Delhi or the National Capital Region too.

“The NCR... It is therefore that their number would be increased to 40 squads. This is to cover the entire NCR,” Mehta clarified.

Industry restriction

It said industrial operations in NCR where gas is not available and not running on PNG or clean fuel would be allowed to operate for eight hours during weekdays and will remain closed in weekends.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, for petitioner, suggested harnessing solar or electrical energy to power the plants. When Uttar Pradesh objected to the eight-hour work day, saying the sugarcane farmers would be hit at the peak of the ongoing crushing season, the court asked the State to approach the Commission.

Mehta, referring to the Commission’s affidavit, said thermal plants within 300 km radius of Delhi would continue to be regulated. Only five of 11 plants are functional. The rest would remain inoperational till December 15.

At this, Justice Chandrachud suggested that the government should consider shifting these plants to alternative fuel for the long term.

Work on hospitals

The court permitted Delhi to continue work on building the seven hospitals devoted to Covid-19 treatment in the Capital, provided they meet the directions of the Air Quality Commission.

Singhvi informed the court that schools and colleges have been closed. The court had, in a hearing on December 2, expressed alarm at the sight of children going to school even as pollution remained high in Delhi.

‘Schools closed’

Delhi government said schools had stayed closed for 17 months. There were complaints of learning loss, Singhvi submitted.

At this point, the Bench referred to media reports portraying the court in bad light about the December 2 hearing.

Singhvi said certain sections of the media had portrayed it as if the court was trying to take over government administration. In contrast, the atmosphere of the hearings were “convivial” with a concerted focus on getting rid of pollution.

Chief Justice Ramana said the government had taken the decision to close the schools and subsequently open it too.

Mehta, light-heartedly, referred to Mark Twain saying “if you do not read the newspapers, you are un-informed. If you read the newspapers, you become ill-informed”.

The court posted the case next on December 10.

“We will keep this matter pending,” Chief Justice Ramana said. The court, in a hearing on Thursday, had questioned the very purpose of having the Air Quality Commission with the pollution levels continuing to go up. It had given the Centre a 24-hour deadline to act.

Published on December 03, 2021

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