The Supreme Court on Saturday asked the Centre whether a two-day lockdown in the national capital of Delhi could be considered as an emergency measure to curb rising levels of air pollution.
Asking the centre to take urgent measures to bring down the Air Quality Index (AQI), Chief Justice Of India NV Ramana said, "Tell us how we can reduce AQI from 500 at least by 200 points. Take some urgent measures. Can you think of two days lockdown or something? How can people live? Air quality in Delhi is in the 'severe' category and in another two to three days it will dip further. Take an emergency decision. We will look at a long-term solution later."
The bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, he was representing the Centre, that some emergency measures must be taken so that people in Delhi feel better in the next two-three days.
The Supreme Court told the Centre that air pollution had no political colour and the issue needs to be looked at beyond politics and government.
A special bench was hearing a plea filed by 17-year-old Aditya Dubey on concerns of the rising levels of air pollution in Delhi. The national capital region has been covered in a thick haze of smog with air pollution levels hovering in the severe category.
The Centre said AQI in the national capital would likely slip into the "emergency" category from the "severe" category over the next few days and advised caution. "We must be watchful till November 18," SG Mehta said.
Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi Government, said the air we were breathing right now was akin to "smoking 20 cigarettes a day." The situation needed to be tackled on a "war footing".
CJI Ramana, who was heading the special bench, said the situation of the air pollution was "serious" and added, "You see how bad the situation is…we have been forced to wear masks at home also."
The bench also questioned the Delhi government over the status on its decision to install smog towers and emission control projects.
Little children are being exposed to pollutants: SC to Centre
Highlighting the dangers of air pollution, Justice DY Chandrachud said children are being exposed to the pollutants now that the school in the national capital have started physical classes for students.
"Little children have to go to school at 7 am in this weather. This is not the Centre's but your jurisdiction. What is happening on that front?" Justice Chandrachud asked the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government. "Dr Guleria (head of AIIMS) said we are exposing them to pollution, pandemic and dengue," he added.
When the Centre pointed out that Punjab, which borders Delhi, must "buckle up" and tackle stubble burning—an important cause of air pollution—the top court observed that it had become a fashion to blame farmers.
"You are making it as if farmers are responsible for this," CJI Ramana said. The top judge said that a percentage of the worsening air quality could be because of stubble burning, however other causes included vehicular pollution, firecrackers, industrial pollution etc.
"There was a ban on firecrackers, what happened with that?" the bench asked.
"Central government says there are two lakh machines are available for stubble burning and in the market, there are two-three kinds of machines available, but the farmers can't afford to buy them. Why can't the Centre or State governments provide these machines to farmers or take away the stubble?"