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Wednesday 29 January 2020

Stubble-burning: Why States shouldn’t be penalised, asks SC

The Supreme Court took the chief secretaries of Punjab and Haryana to task for causing misery to the people of Delhi while asking the Centre and the government of the capital city to reconcile their mutual differences

The Supreme Court has taken a strict view of the ceaseless air pollution in Delhi caused by the callous burning of crop stubble by farmers of Haryana and Punjab. The apex court on Monday pulled up the Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi governments during the hearing, rebuking them for “no will power” to control pollution. Given that in spite of orders to the contrary, the cases of burning of crop stubble have steadily increased, the court asked why the State governments should not be fined.

The court wondered why people were being forced to live in gas chambers. “It is better to kill them all at once,” it remarked. During the hearing, the Haryana chief secretary said that they were engaged day and night to reduce pollution.

Justice Arun Mishra reprimanded the bureaucrat saying his State was disobeying the order of the Supreme Court. The court cited the satellite images in which stubble-burning could be clearly seen.

The bench that comprises Justice Deepak Gupta as well did not spare Punjab. When the State’s chief secretary said some instances of stubble burning were still occurring in the state, the bench said, “Look at the number of fires. We have called you for that reason. Why is it going on?”

“Everyone is aware of what is happening in Delhi… Every year this is happening… it will take place next year too if no steps are taken,” the bench remarked.

The Supreme Court asked Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, too, why people were being forced to stay in a gas chamber. “It would be good to kill them all at once. This can be done by an explosion. Why are people made to suffer so much?”

The chief secretary of Delhi admitted before the Supreme Court that due to dual power centres and the tussle between the Delhi and Union governments, Delhi was facing this problem. The Supreme Court wanted the Centre and Delhi government to prepare a comprehensive plan to deal with air pollution within 10 days, installing smoke towers on a permanent basis across Delhi.

The Supreme Court also directed the Delhi government and the Centre also to put aside their differences.

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