‘Delhi worse than hell’: Supreme Court rebukes Centre, states on air pollution

The Supreme Court on Monday lashed out at the Centre and the states for their failure to do anything to improve the quality of air in national capital Delhi.

INDIA Updated: Nov 25, 2019

HT Correspondent

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The judges weren’t impressed with the steps outlined by the Haryana or the Centre either.
The judges weren’t impressed with the steps outlined by the Haryana or the Centre either.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

The Supreme Court did get an explanation of sorts from the government but quickly dismissed the stand taken by the governments, concluding that politics and blame game appeared to be standing in the way.

“The world is laughing at us. You are reducing the lifespan of people. Why are people being forced to live in gas chambers. Better to get explosives and kill them all in one go”, a Supreme Court bench led by Justice Arun Mishra told the Centre’s second most-senior law officer Tushar Mehta.

The bench has been angry at the inability of the government to take inadequate steps to clean up Delhi’s air quality over the last month or so. It had pulled up law officers at previous hearings and given top officers of neighbouring states such as Punjab and Haryana 10 days to get their act together and stop stubble burning in their respective states.

At an earlier hearing, the government had told the court that Haryana had shaped up and checked stubble burning, Punjab had not.

Punjab did get a tongue lashing. “Because you (Punjab) are not able to implement measures, does not mean people in NCR should die and suffer from cancer,” Justice Arun Mishra retorted, holding out a threat of a fine on officials for failure to enforce the court-imposed ban.

The judges weren’t impressed with the steps outlined by the Haryana or the Centre either.

“You people (States and Centre) are blaming each other. This is politically managed pollution. Everything is happening under the nose of this court and we should tolerate all of these. This is a blame game, nothing is being done. I am shocked,” Justice Arun Mishra said.

Haryana chief secretary told the bench that they had worked day and night to stop farmers from burning stubble. But the court noted that rather than reducing, instances of stubble burning had increased. “Why shouldn’t you compensate Delhi’ites for this,” the bench asked.

At the last few hearings, the judges have explored various options to quickly improve the capital’s toxic air that the judges have underlined, was killing people because government agencies weren’t doing their job.

As the judges took the governments to task, the overall air quality index in the national capital stood 240. It is graded as ‘poor’ and by Delhi’s standards, cleaner than what people in the city have had to breathe for most of the past month. This improvement, however, is accounted for by strong winds that helped flush out pollutants.

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