Bureaucracy gone into inertia: CJI slams Centre, states

Bureaucracy has gone into inertia: CJI slams Centre, states as pollution chokes Delhi

Ramana stressed that there has to be some responsibility and not everything could be done through judicial order

The Supreme Court of India. Credit: Reuters Photo

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rapped the Centre and states over their failure to take adequate steps to curb air pollution in the national capital region, saying the bureaucracy has gone into inertia though this has become a yearly phenomenon.

“People sitting in five-star and seven-star facilities in Delhi keep accusing the farmers. If you have a scientific alternative to the problem. Let us look at it, rather than blaming farmers," a bench presided over by Chief Justice N V Ramana said.

The court's remark came as senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the Delhi government, submitted that the stubble burning was a major contributor to the air pollution during the winters.

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The bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant, however, said nobody understands the plight of farmers and under what circumstances they are forced to burn stubble. It asked why the efforts were not taken throughout the year to curb major sources of pollution like industrial activities, construction etc.

Picking holes in various studies, the bench pointed out according to an IIT Kanpur study a few years ago, stubble burning and firecrackers were not the main contributors to pollution. "Can it be believed," the bench asked.

The court also pulled up the bureaucracy for not doing enough to tackle the problem of pollution.

“Bureaucracy has developed paralysis, inertia and apathy. They want all these things should be said by us. How to use sprinklers, how to stop vehicles, they do not want to take any decision," the bench said.

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The court again said that according to the government report, vehicles were the main cause, but there were gas guzzlers, hi-fi cars running on Delhi roads. The court also questioned the implementation of the policy of removal of 10 and 15-year-old vehicles from the Delhi roads. 

“Who will encourage them to stop this? Delhi says no point in banning vehicles or introducing work-from-home, if not implemented in neighbouring states. We thought the Commission For Air quality management in NCR will give us steps to stop this," the bench said.

At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta raised the issue of "nasty and irresponsible" remarks made on televisions with regard to the last hearing on contributing factors like stubble to pollution. 

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"Debates on TV are creating more pollution. They don’t understand the issue and statements are taken out of context. Everyone has their own agenda," the bench said.

In his submission, Mehta said complete work for home for central government employees would not help due to its pan India ramifications. The court, however, said instead of calling all 100 officers, call 50 officers and the officers living in the vicinity should travel in public transport.

The court put the matter for further consideration next Wednesday.

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