SC asks Centre to clear the air on construction activities in Delhi

Workers busy at Delhi Metro Construction site near Majlis Park Station on smoggy morning.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court on November 29 asked the Centre to clear the air on construction activities in areas falling within its domain in the National Capital amidst clamour in court that the Central Vista project was proceeding “full steam” despite the re-imposition of building ban by the Supreme Court to loosen pollution’s iron grip on Delhi.

A Special Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana directed the Centre to respond by December 2, the next day of hearing.

“Despite your [Supreme Court’s] ban, the Central Vista work is going on... Lives of people should be more important than the Central Vista! The Central Vista work is on full steam right under the nose of the Supreme Court,” senior advocate Vikas Singh, for the petitioner side, submitted forcefully.

The court had re-imposed construction ban in Delhi NCR as an interim measure on November 24.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, questioned the intentions of the petitioner in focussing only on the Central Vista work. The Supreme Court had earlier given the green signal for the project in the heart of the power corridors of the Capital.

Chief Justice Ramana said the focus of the court was pollution, pure and simple.

“We will not let anyone go. If the pollution has to do with Central Vista, we will ask him [Mehta]... Our focus is on pollution, whether it has to do with the Centre or the States,” the CJI reacted orally to Mr. Singh’s submissions.

Task force

The court said it would be forced to set up a “task force” if the States did not fully implement the directions of the Centre’s Air Quality Commission to cut pollution.

“If the States are unable to take action, we will be forced to create an independent task force,” Chief Justice Ramana observed orally.

Mr. Mehta explained that the Commission had given direct instructions to the States after consulting with the Chief Secretaries and authorities of States, including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana. Diesel generators, for example, continued to be operated in malls.

“Right from the beginning we have been engaging with them. Some directions are only partially complied or we are not informed about compliance... The gaps need to be breached... Directions have to be implemented...” Mr. Mehta submitted.

The Bench said there was no point imprisoning someone or ordering them to pay a fine of ₹1,000.

“These things do not help. The directions have to implemented... The intentions of everybody are good, but directions are not being implemented... If you can show us which are the States which have not complied, we will ask them to take action. We will ask them for an explanation... Your Commission is high-powered... What is it doing? Only forwarding to the States the Supreme Court orders? We will be forced to create a task force then,” the CJI said.

The court directed Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab to file affidavits showing their compliance with the directions issued by the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas.

At the beginning of the hearing, the Bench pointed out that the quality of air continued to be a severe 319 points.

In the previous hearing, the court had said the credit for loosening the smog’s choke on Delhi in the past few days largely went to the wind, an “‘act of God”, but the wind may die by the end of the day to leave the Capital at the mercy of pollution again.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 8:04:58 AM |

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