'Kill people in one go': SC blasts states on pollution

“Delhi has become worse than ‘narak’ (hell),” a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta said, taking a strong view of the failure of governments to contain air and water pollution.

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to all states and Union Territories on providing clean air and water and disposal of garbage while asking Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to explain why they should not compensate people affected by bad air in view of incidents of stubble burning.

“Delhi has become worse than ‘narak’ (hell),” a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta said, taking a strong view of the failure of governments to contain air and water pollution.

“Why are people being forced to live in gas chambers? It is better to kill them all in one go... get explosives in 15 bags at one go. Why should people suffer all this? A blame game is going on in Delhi, I am literally shocked,” Justice Mishra told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Union government. Mehta admitted there was an increase in stubble burning cases in recent days.

Noting that citizens must have a right to clean air and clean water, the court invoked the principles of tortious liability to seek a response from all states and UTs as to why they should not pay compensation for failure to provide clean air and water.

The top court also pulled up the chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.

UP chief secretary said around 1,000 FIRs were filed against stubble burning and a fine of around Rs 1 core imposed. The court, however, said positive action must be taken instead of coercive ones, as satellite images showed stubble burning in parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

“Action is required on a war footing to tackle air pollution,” it said.

“Life isn’t so cheap in India anymore. What was given in Bhopal gas tragedy is nothing when compared to what is being given to victims in similar cases worldwide. Chief secretaries have no right to be in chair if they can’t serve people well. Can you monetise reduction in life span,” the bench asked the top officers of the states.

The court also took suo motu cognisance of Delhi’s water quality and asked the Delhi government and the Centre to come back with relevant statistics.

The water quality was found to be poor in a recent BIS report.

“The world is laughing at us, for you can’t even stop stubble burning,” the court told the counsel from the states.

“Every government blames it on the other government. Even water pollution is a matter of politics. The blame game goes on while people don’t get clean water. It is the end of the civilians’ right? Everyone is interested in politicising pollution,” the bench said.

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