Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Monday informed the Supreme Court that the Centre has taken a holistic view of the issue of air pollution in Delhi NCR, which also includes pollution due to stubble burning, and it intends to bring out a legislation in next three to four days to tackle this issue.
Following this proposal from Centre, the top court kept in abeyance its October 16 order, appointing one-man panel of retired apex court judge Justice Madan B. Lokur to monitor the steps taken by Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab to prevent stubble burning.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde told Mehta, representing the Centre, that it welcomes the Centre’s decision to establish a body to address the menace of air pollution. “Everybody is choking in the city, it must be curbed,” said the Chief Justice citing the menace of air pollution in the national capital.
Mehta replied the Centre will come out with the legislation in three to four days and the government is keen to establish a permanent body of experts to address air pollution.
“We can come out with the legislation in three to four days,” he submitted, seeking that the top court should keep its earlier order, which directed formation of a panel headed by Justice (retd) Lokur in abeyance.
At this, the bench, which also comprised Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, said: “Having regard to the statement, we consider it appropriate that the measures adopted by this Court vide order dated October 16, be kept in abeyance until further orders.”
The top court reiterated that it welcomes this step by the Centre, in which it will create a permanent body by enacting a legislation to deal with the annual air pollution problem, which includes pollution from stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
It asked the counsel opposing this submission by Mehta, saying that why must the court interfere if the Centre intends to bring out a comprehensive legislation to tackle air pollution.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, representing the petitioner who filed a PIL to address stubble burning, contended: “I don’t understand the interest of Union of India in getting the order suspended.”
Singh added that the new law, if it were to be framed, will not be operational this year and insisted that top court should permit the Justice Lokur Commission to keep working.
As Mehta reiterated that the legislation will be brought within 3-4 days, the bench stated the Solicitor General has gone on record that the Union of India has proposed a legislation to tackle the problem which is highlighted in the PIL and that it will be placed before the court within three to four days.
Mehta said the law will become operational this year, and if required, government is also willing to bring an Ordinance to address the matter of air pollution.
The bench noted that it had appointed the commission headed by Justice Lokur. “We are now suspending it for a good reason. We are not going to say our order was bad. Now when the government is coming up with a law, let us take a look at it first,” said Chief Justice Bobde.
The bench will now take up the matter on Thursday when the main PIL on air pollution, filed by environmentalist M.C. Mehta in 1985, is slated for hearing.
The top court on October 16, expressed its concern on increasing air pollution in Delhi-NCR, said people have a right to breathe clean air.