New Delhi, Chief Justice S.A. Bobde on Friday told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the court is not concerned with any commission, and all it wants — on a priority basis — is for the Centre to ensure that there is no smog in Delhi-NCR.
As Mehta informed the top court that the newly-formed air quality commission, which will address air pollution in Delhi-NCR, was begin working from Friday and members have also been appointed including former Petroleum Secretary M.M. Kutty as head, a bench headed by the Chief Justice said: “We are not concerned with any commission. There are already many commissions and many brains working. But ensure that there is no smog in the city. We will hold a detailed hearing on these pleas after vacations.”
The Centre had notified the commission for Air Quality Management for Delhi-NCR after it issued an ordinance on October 28 to set up the new agency with sweeping powers to act against sources of air pollution across Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, representing a minor petitioner in the matter, submitted that a five-year jail term and Rs 1 crore fine looks little arbitrary and there is no classification of offences.
He insisted that rising air pollution is a matter of grave concern and in fact, it is a public health emergency and something drastic needs to be done.
Singh also highlighted before the top court that Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is also kept out of the commission.
The Chief Justice then asked Mehta that grading of offences was required. “We need details what kind of offences you are looking at. Because for all offences and violation of orders of the commissions or provisions, the penalty cannot be 5 years jail or Rs 1 crore fine,” he added.
On the aspect of not having retired judges on the commission, the Chief Justice said: “After all, we are a court of law. We won’t abdicate our responsibilities but we are also aware of our constraints. We cannot enter the executive’s domain. The government has resources and money and they will have to ultimately act.”
Mehta emphasised that the government also have “the will” to act against pollution.
The apex court was hearing petitions against stubble burning, which is a major source of air pollution in Delhi-NCR.