The Supreme Court on Monday criticised the Central and the state government for the alarming proportions that Delhi’s pollution has assumed and summoned chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and UP to appear before it on Wednesday to explain why they failed to tackle stubble burning.
Expressing grave concern at the air quality in Delhi and NCR, the Supreme Court said that even though the city was choking, the Centre and the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi were passing the buck.
'People are losing precious years of their lives due to pollution,' a bench comprising of Mr. Justice Arun Mishra and Mr. Justice Deepak Gupta, said, adding, it would hold the state governments and 'sarpanchs' liable for it as it amounted to 'tort,' i.e. a civil wrong.
'This is happening every year. The air quality inside rooms is very bad... people are dying...no civilised country can allow it to go on,' the bench said. Noting that state governments were squarely responsible for the situation, the bench said, 'We are going to fix liability on the state governments and sarpanchs.'
It summoned experts from IIT Delhi and the Ministry of Environment and Forests to seek their advice on short and long term measures to deal with the emergency.
The bench headed by Mr. Justice Arun Mishra said the Delhi government should have increased the number of buses in the capital. The Additional Solicitor General, Mr. ANS Nadkarni, said the Centre had filed an affidavit on the issue giving latest details about the problem.
He said stubble burning has gone up in Punjab by 7 per cent while it has come down by 17 per cent in Haryana. As the bench asked about the situation in western UP, Mr. Nadkarni said, 'We are collecting details.'
The bench repeatedly said, 'Every year this is happening, and this continues for 10-15 days, this can't be done in civilised countries. Right to life is most important. It's not the way we can live. This is too much. No room is safe to live in this city, even in homes. We are losing precious years of their life due to this,' it said.