Have come out with Ordinance on curbing pollution, Centre tells SC

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New Delhi, Oct 29 (PTI) The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that it has come out with an Ordinance on curbing pollution and it has been promulgated already.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said that it would have to look at the Ordinance before passing any direction in the matter which has raised issues regarding pollution caused due to stubble burning in neighbouring states of Delhi.

“We would like to look at the Ordinance before passing any order. Even the petitioners would like to see. Let's hear it next Friday,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta apprised the bench of the Ordinance.

The apex court had on October 26 kept in abeyance its earlier order appointing one-man panel of retired apex court judge Justice Madan B Lokur to monitor the steps taken by neighbouring states to prevent stubble burning which is a major cause of pollution in the Delhi-national capital region (NCR).

During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing on Thursday, senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that air quality has been worse and the order appointing Justice (retd) Lokur should be allowed to be operated.

Singh said the situation would get worse by next week.

“We will hear you Mr Singh and the Solicitor General too and look at the points made by you. This is not an adversarial litigation,” the bench said.

“Some experts have informed us informally that it is not only stubble burning that creates pollution,” the CJI said.

“We would like you to stop using your beautiful cars. Which you won't. We should all go about on bikes -- not motorbikes but bicycles,” the CJI observed during the hearing.

The bench told Singh that it would hear him after going through the Ordinance.

At the outset, the solicitor general told the court about the Ordinance.

“Nobody should fall sick because of this pollution and if anybody falls sick we will make you responsible,” the bench said in a lighter vein.

The top court has posted the matter for hearing on November 6.

Earlier, the apex court had kept in abeyance its October 16 order appointing one-man panel of Justice (retd) Lokur while considering the Centre’s stand that it is coming out with a comprehensive legislation to deal with air pollution, including the aspect of stubble burning.

The solicitor general had earlier told the bench that the Centre has taken a “holistic view” of the matter and the draft of the proposed law on curbing pollution would be submitted in the apex court within four days.

In its October 16 order, the top court had directed deployment of National Cadet Corps, National Service Scheme and Bharat Scouts and Guides for assisting in the monitoring of stubble burning in the agricultural fields of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi-NCR, saying all it wants is that “people of Delhi-NCR can breathe fresh air without any pollution”.

It had raised concern over the worsening air quality in Delhi-NCR and appointed one-man panel of Justice (retd) Lokur to monitor the steps taken by the neighbouring states to prevent stubble burning, while brushing aside objections of the Centre, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

It had directed the court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) and chief secretaries of Delhi and the concerned states to assist the Lokur panel to enable physical surveillance of fields where stubble is burnt.

During his tenure as an apex court judge, Justice Lokur who headed social-justice bench had dealt with pollution matters which included the aspect of stubble burning.

The top court is also hearing a separate plea filed in 1985 by environmentalist M C Mehta on air pollution and had last year even taken a suo motu note of alarming rise in air pollution in Delhi-NCR where several directions have been passed with regard to stubble burning. PTI SJK ABA MNL SA