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‘Induce creativity in bureaucracy’, SC sets 24-hour deadline for Centre, states to act

The top court questioned the utility of having a commission for air quality management, if it ends up having on board people from different departments and seems like having no power to enforce decision, and gave 24 hours to the government to come up with concrete ways to curb air pollution.

IANS | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Thursday minced no words to slam the Centre and state governments over the severe air pollution in the national capital and expressed concern that nothing was happening on the ground to improve the air quality.

The top court questioned the utility of having a commission for air quality management, if it ends up having on board people from different departments and seems like having no power to enforce decision, and gave 24 hours to the government to come up with concrete ways to curb air pollution.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant said the emergency situation needs emergency measures.

The Chief Justice told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, “You have to work with creativity…if things are not working.” In connection with measures to curb air pollution, the Chief Justice added, “We have to do something extraordinary…we cannot enforce or induce creativity in your bureaucracy, you have to come up with some steps”.

The bench asked Mehta, ‘what is the Commission for Air Quality Management doing and pointed out that the judges went through the names and designation of people in the commission’. “It looks like a government of India organisation with all departments together”, said the bench.

Justice Chandrachud said: “Looks like the problem is that this commission has no power of enforcement.”

During the hearing, the bench queried, “Despite our orders, pollution level is only going up. Where is it coming from?”

The bench further added that what is the use of a 20-30-member committee (air quality commission)? “It’s nothing but another burden on the exchequer”, noted the bench.

Mehta said the government is equally concerned about life threatening pollution levels in Delhi and sought one day time to talk to the highest authority and to come out with additional measures to deal with the crisis.

The top court made it crystal clear that it needs to take action within 24 hours to curb air pollution in the capital. The bench said: “If you do not act, we will step in…we have extraordinary steps in mind.”

The top court directed Centre and states to be serious on reducing air pollution and scheduled the next hearing on the matter on Friday.