MIDST the deteriorating air quality in the national capital, the Supreme Court on Friday directed the Government of India and the Delhi Government to effectively implement the measures prescribed by the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region (NCR) and Adjoining Areas.
A special bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant also directed the listing of the matter next Friday. The bench said it would continue monitoring the progress made in compliance with the directions issued by the Commission.
It also expressed unhappiness over media reporting of the case. It said the judges are being projected as villains by some sections of the media for prompting the closure of schools on account of the air pollution in Delhi.
“One thing what we observed is, whether intentional or unintentional, some sections of media projected us that we are the villains who want to close down the schools. On your own you (Delhi government) opened the schools … But see today’s newspapers.” CJI Ramana remarked.
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was appearing for the Delhi government, was quick to join the sentiments expressed by the three judges and said: “That is my complaint too. You must put the blame where it is. Today, one newspaper has conveyed in particular that the hearing was aggressive combat and Court started to take up the administrative duty.”
Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the union government, added “Mark Twain had said if you don’t read newspapers, you are uninformed, and if you read them, then you are ill-informed.”
Justice Chandrachud recalled an incident that happened two days back. He said that on the issue of judicial infrastructure, “we suggested if we can have a national body so that something constructive can be done … but what we say in court is twisted and it was stated that High Courts have to go with begging bowls … When did we say that?”
The union government informed the Court that a 5-member Enforcement Task Force and 17 flying squads have been constituted by the Commission to ensure implementation of its directions. The said ‘Enforcement Task Force’ will inspect and continuously supervise and monitor the compliance of the directions issued by the commission through ‘inspection teams/flying squads’.
The flying squads will continuously make supervision visits, periodical incognito checking and inspections, and will report to the Enforcement Task Force daily. The ‘Enforcement Task Force’ would meet every day at 6 pm either physically or through virtual mode to take stock of the situation.
The Commission’s order further states that any non-compliance of directions issued by it will be taken seriously and ‘Enforcement Task Force’ would pass such preventive, closure or seizure orders, which would be over and above such other preventive, corrective and punitive actions like financial penalty and criminal prosecution as prescribed by the law.
It adds that there are 124 border entry points to the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The concerned state governments will ensure the deployment of teams from the Road Transport Department of the concerned states along with a requisite number of police personnel at every border entry point for 24 hours, in rotation.
Besides, the Commission also has directed that industrial operations and processes in NCR, not running on PNG (Piped Natural Gas) or cleaner fuels, shall be allowed to operate only upto eight hours a day from Monday to Friday, and will not be allowed to operate on Saturday and Sunday. In addition, only 5 out of the 11 thermal power plants within a 300 km radius of Delhi will be allowed to operate until December 15.
The Commission also directed that all schools, colleges and educational institutions in the NCR will remain closed and that trucks except those running on CNG (compressed natural gas) and electric energy, and those carrying essential commodities, will not be given entry to Delhi.
The Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas is a statutory body set up by the Parliament in August this year as an overarching body to carry out air quality management in NCR in a more efficient and comprehensive manner. The Commission is empowered to take measures, issue directions and entertain complaints “for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of air in the National Capital Region”.