Supreme Court slams Punjab, Haryana on stubble burning

Bench says smog from the fires has made Delhi a living hell.

November 25, 2019 05:01 pm | Updated November 28, 2019 07:06 pm IST - New Delhi

The court termed the stubble burning situation alarming and said not only the State machinery but farmers were also responsible for it.

The court termed the stubble burning situation alarming and said not only the State machinery but farmers were also responsible for it.

The Supreme Court on Monday lashed out at the Punjab and Haryana governments for their inability to prevent pollution from stubble burning despite orders from the court, saying the smog from the fires had made Delhi a living hell.

A visibly agitated Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta said toxic fumes washing over Delhi from stubble burnt in Punjab and Haryana is reminiscent of an internal war. Using explosives to finish all is better than slow death from pollutants, Justice Mishra admonished the Chief Secretaries of Punjab and Haryana.

“Should this be tolerated? Is this not worse than internal war? You better finish them all with explosives,” the court said.

Justice Mishra highlighted the plight of people living in Delhi-NCR. They choke on polluted air day in and out.

“Delhi is worse than narak  [hell]. The world is laughing at us. You are reducing the life span of people. Why are people being forced to live in gas chambers. Get explosive and kill them all in one go... How many lakhs should each person be paid for suffering air pollution?” Justice Mishra slammed the authorities.

Water pollution

Taking suo motu  cognisance of allegations of water pollution in Delhi, the court said people have right to get pure drinking water. “We are ‘literally shocked’ that water is polluted in Delhi and a blame-game is going on. What is this happening,” the Bench said.

The Bench directed the Delhi government and the Central Pollution Control Board to provide a status report on the impact of industries on pollution in Delhi.

“What is the meaning of all this development if you create such pollution levels in the nation’s capital?” the Bench said.

Fixing liability

The court expressed its keenness to explore the law of torts to fix liability on polluters and direct compensation to be payable to ordinary citizens for polluting air and water.

The court issued notice to all the States and the Union Territories for their responses in six weeks on why they should not be made liable to pay compensation to people for not providing clean air and water.

The Supreme Court asked the Delhi government and the Centre to sit together and finalise a plan within 10 days for the setting up of air purifiers in different parts of the city. 

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