SC on Pollution: People forced to live in gas chambers, better to kill them with explosives

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The Supreme Court, which had ordered a complete ban on stubble burning in states around Delhi, on Monday lashed out at the Centre and the states for their failure to do anything to improve the quality of air in national capital Delhi.

The judges did get an explanation of sorts from the government but quickly dismissed the stand taken by the governments, concluding that politics and blame game appeared to be standing in the way.

“The world is laughing at us. You are reducing the lifespan of people. Why are people being forced to live in gas chambers. Better to get explosives and kill them all in one go”, a Supreme Court bench led by Justice Arun Mishra told the Centre’s second most-senior law officer Tushar Mehta.

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The bench has not been satisfied with the steps taken by the government to improve Delhi’s air quality.

It had pulled up law officers at previous hearings and given top officers of neighbouring states such as Punjab and Haryana 10 days to get their act together and stop stubble burning in their respective states.

At an earlier hearing, the government had told the court that Haryana had shaped up and checked stubble burning, Punjab had not.

Punjab did get a tongue lashing. “Because you (Punjab) are not able to implement measures, does not mean people in NCR should die and suffer from cancer,” Justice Arun Mishra retorted, holding out a threat of a fine on officials for failure to enforce the court-imposed ban.

“You people (States and Centre) are blaming each other. This is politically managed pollution. Everything is happening under the nose of this court and we should tolerate all of these. This is a blame game, nothing is being done. I am shocked,” Justice Arun Mishra said.

Haryana chief secretary told the bench that they had worked day and night to stop farmers from burning stubble. But the court noted that rather than reducing, instances of stubble burning had increased. “Why shouldn’t you compensate Delhi’ites for this,” the bench asked.

At the last few hearings, the judges have explored various options to quickly improve the capital’s toxic air that the judges have underlined, was killing people because government agencies weren’t doing their job.

The overall air quality index in the national capital stood at 240.

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