A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana and composed of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant of the Supreme Court on Saturday told the Delhi government to stop blaming farmers for the severe air pollution in the city. The court further asked the government as to how it was dealing with pollution caused by other prominent factors like firecrackers, dust, industries and vehicles. The bench was hearing a plea by a minor boy seeking directions against factors associated with the high levels of high pollution in the capital city.
In response to the bench's query on what happened to the smog tower and whether it was still functioning, Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, who represents the Delhi government, responded that the tower is working. He added that the Air Quality Index (AQI) was 84 or 'satisfactory' on September 30. After over a month, it is now 471 (severe) with PM2.5 and PM10 at critical levels. "Probably, it is due to stubble burning," he said.
"It has now become a fashion to blame the farmers... What happened to the firecracker ban? What is the Delhi Police doing?" Justice Kant responded. The bench further added that emergency measures, such as a prohibition on vehicles or emission control, will have to be taken as it is an emergency situation.
"Why don't you think of some emergency steps... Find a way to stop vehicles on some days," the Chief Justice told Mehra.
The Delhi government has opened schools, and there is a threat to the lungs of children due to the pollution, Justice Chandrachud noted. "This is not the Centre, but your jurisdiction. What is happening on that front?" he asked.
Though stubble burning may be part of the problem, it is not the only issue behind the air pollution, the Chief Justice said.
"We realise that this situation of pollution in Delhi is like smoking 20 cigarettes a day," Mehra responded.
Chief Justice concluded the hearing, instructing Mehra to inform the steps taken by the government on Monday. "We are listing it on Monday. Tell us about emergency steps taken," the Chief Justice said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that it is nobody's case that farmers should be held responsible for the air pollution.