The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Bill to formalise the Commission for Air Quality Management For National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas. The body has a full time chairperson and a range of members consisting of both representatives from several Ministries as well as independent experts and will have the final say on evolving policy and issuing directions to address air pollution in Delhi and the adjoining regions.
The Centre, facing flak earlier this year from farmers protesting the farm laws, had committed to removing a clause in the Air Commission Bill that would penalise farmers for burning stubble, an important contributor to noxious air quality. The text of the Bill does away with this clause.
The body first came into being in October, 2020 on the back of an ordinance — a temporary measure — and the law requires that a formal Bill be presented to Parliament within six weeks of it reconvening — in this case — January 29 when the Budget Session began. Before a Bill is tabled in Parliament, it needs to be approved by the Union Cabinet. However, in spite of several Cabinet meetings since January, it wasn’t taken up for discussion due to which, the tenure of the body expired, without ever making it to Parliament.
As The Hindu had reported in March, members who were part of the Commission said they were taken aback by the sudden dissolution of the body. The dissolution happened despite the nodal Union Environment Ministry submitting the paper work to the Union Cabinet Secretariat, required to give legal backing to the Commission. The Commission was revived on April 13 after another ordinance was promulgated by the President.
The Centre had said the new organisation would be a ‘permanent’ body to address pollution in the National Capital Region Delhi and address sources of pollution in Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The all-powerful body assumed several powers to coordinate action among States, levy fines — ranging up to ₹1 crore or five years of prison — to address air pollution.
While the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and its State branches have the powers to implement provisions of the Environment Protection Act for air, water and land pollution, in case of dispute or a clash of jurisdictions, the Commission’s writ would prevail specific to matters concerning air pollution.