What the Supreme Court could not do in the last 35 years, COVID19 pandemic did in less than a month. This is “very interesting and at the same time, important”, said former Supreme Court judge Deepka Gupta.
Justice Gupta, who retired on Wednesday after spending three years on the Green Bench, told CNN-News18 that “there was lack of will” by the government to do what it takes for cleaner air and clearer water.
He suggested implementation of an annual 15-day lockdown by states and union territories to ward off the ill-effects of pollution on air and water.
“The results on the air and water quality were visible just within a fortnight of the lockdown. It shows when there is a will, this can be done. But a lot is done in the name of sustainable development. The governments would be reluctant to even implement our orders in the name of sustainable development and particularly, when big industries are involved,” said the outgoing judge.
He added that while in some of the cases, the Environment Ministry was proactive in implementing the orders of the Supreme Court, when there were clashes pertaining to big industries and issues of environmental clearances and permissions, “I found that there is lack of willingness on their part to implement our orders.”
Justice Gupta said rules are stretched and the orders of the Supreme Court are not implemented in the right earnest some of the times when the governments want big industrial units to be set up in a particular region.
Justice Gupta was a member of the Green Bench in the Supreme Court that deals with matters relating to environmental protection. PILs relating to air pollution and river water pollution are pending before it since 1984-85.
Asked about why could the top court not achieve its objectives in the last more than three decades, Justice Gupta said there were myriad reasons but lack of will by government functionaries and poor implementation of various schemes at the grassroots level could be the leading ones.
He further said the world has been made to pay a heavy price for the recent changes in air and water quality.
“We can see the change has come at a very heavy cost. Industries are shut. People are losing jobs. Some are hungry too. I don’t think this is the cost anyone would want to pay, but there has to a balance somewhere. If we were to reduce traffic, reduce industry and a 15-day lockdown in different parts of the country, it will lead to a lot of clean air and water,” said the judge.
Justice Gupta said the crisis that we have in the form of coronavirus has a very important lesson for the human race.
“We must learn to respect nature and not fight against it. The COVID19 epidemic must tell the human race very clearly that we are incapable of fighting against nature. A small virus has left us so scared that if we don’t start respecting nature even now and give it its due then we will just head towards another calamity,” he said.