The Supreme Court on Monday took a bleak view of the steps being taken to alleviate air and water quality levels in the national capital, and slammed the centre and state governments concerned for playing a blame game at a time when living conditions in Delhi have become “worse than hell”.
“Delhi has become worse than narak (hell). Life is not so cheap in India and you will have to pay. How much do you value a person’s life?” the court asked the Delhi government, saying that it has “no right to be in the chair”.
The two-member bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta was referring to increasing instances of stubble burning in neighbouring states, a major contributor to air pollution in the national capital region, as well as a Bureau of India Standards (BIS) report claiming that water samples collected from 11 places across Delhi failed quality tests on 19 parameters. The Supreme Court has asked the centre and the Aam Aadmi Party government to provide relevant details in this regard.
The court’s comments on air pollution in the national capital region were just as scathing. “Why are people being forced to live in gas chambers? It is better to kill them all in one go, get explosives in 15 bags at one go. Why should people suffer all this? Instead, a blame game is going on in Delhi, I am literally shocked,” Justice Arun Mishra told Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General for the central government, upon being informed of an increase in stubble-burning cases in recent days.
The bench expressed dismay over the fact that instances of stubble burning were rising in Haryana, a state that initially seemed to be doing better than its counterparts in this regard. Punjab, it claimed, had let the issue get out of hand. “We hold the government machinery in your state responsible. You can’t let people die like this. Delhi is near-suffocating. Just because you aren’t able to implement measures doesn’t mean that people in Delhi-NCR should suffer and die from cancer,” the bench told Punjab Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh.
The Uttar Pradesh government came in for scorching criticism from the Supreme Court too. “Stubble burning has increased, why should we not penalize you and your machinery? We are not going to spare you now,” the bench told the state chief secretary, rejecting his explanation that around 1,000 complaints have been filed against farmers involved.
The court also issued notices to all the states concerned, asking them to provide details of air quality levels as well as the measures being implemented to tackle the dispersal of pollutants. It also issued notices to the governments of Delhi and its surrounding states, asking why they should not be made liable to compensate people for being forced to drink unpotable water and breathe impure air.