Big cars, bureaucratic inertia, blaming farmers: SC seeks clear steps to curb air pollution


The Supreme Court on Wednesday slammed the Centre and state governments for their inability to present a crystal-clear way forward to combat the menace of air pollution in the national capital.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant, after hearing submissions of counsel of the Delhi government and Central government, said it needs clear answers on steps to curb air pollution in the capital, which has become a yearly phenomenon for the past several years.

Justice Kant told Delhi government counsel, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, that nobody understands the plight of farmers and under what circumstances they are forced to burn stubble.

“People sitting in 5-star and 7-star facilities in Delhi keep accusing the farmers (contribute four per cent and 30 or 40 per cent to pollution). If you have a scientific alternative (a resolution)…let us look at it, rather than blaming farmers…”, said Justice Kant.

The Chief Justice pointed out that according to an IIT Kanpur study stubble burning and firecrackers are not main contributors for pollution.

The bench pulled up the government and bureaucracy for not doing enough to curb air pollution.

The bench said the bureaucracy has gone into inertia and they don’t want to do anything. “Bureaucracy developed paralysis…all these things we have to say — how to use sprinklers, how to stop vehicles…they do not want to take any decision”, said the bench slamming the attitude of bureaucracy.

The bench emphasized that somebody has to take responsibility and everything cannot be done through judicial order. It pointed out that firecrackers were burnt in Delhi despite a ban.

It further noted that according to the government report vehicles are the main cause, but gas guzzlers, hi-fi cars run on Delhi roads, and also questioned the implementation of policy of removal of 10-15-year-old vehicles from the Delhi roads. “Who will encourage them to stop this? Delhi says no point in banning vehicles or introducing WFH (work-from-home) if not implemented in neighbouring states..We thought the commission ( air quality management commission) will give us steps to stop this,” noted the bench.

The bench also pointed out that debates on TV are creating more pollution and added that they don’t understand the issue and statements are taken out of context. The bench noted, “Everyone has their own agenda…”

The bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, that they don’t need to call all 100 officers in the office, instead call 50 officers. The bench said: “There are several government localities (in the vicinity of government offices), can’t they travel in public transport?”

The top court asked the Centre and state governments to implement letter and spirit the decisions taken in the emergency meeting held on Tuesday to curb air pollution in Delhi.

The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing next Wednesday.