Supreme Court’s Big Move On Stubble Burning, Declines Centre’s Request

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The Supreme Court today appointed retired judge Justice Madan B Lokur to monitor stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh amid rising pollution in Delhi and its surrounding areas. “We are only concerned about the citizens of Delhi-NCR being able to breathe in fresh clean air,” the top court said. The Supreme Court also declined to accept the centre’s request to reconsider the appointment of the one-man committee of Justice (retd) Lokur. The next hearing on the case has been scheduled on October 26.

Here’s your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:

  1. The bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde directed the court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) and chief secretaries of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh to assist the Lokur panel during physical surveillance of fields where stubble is burnt.
  2. “The concerned state governments will provide secretarial, security and financial facilities to this committee. The National Cadet Corps (NCC), National Service Scheme and Bharat Scouts will also be deployed for assisting the panel. The committee will submit its report to the Supreme Court in 15 days,” the bench, which also comprised Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said.
  3. The centre had objected to the appointment of the committee saying the concerned states have already been heard. “EPCA has been entrusted with the responsibility in this matter. Amicus Curiae has already been appointed,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court. His objections, however, were turned down by the bench.
  4. Minutes after the top court order, Central Pollution Control Board chairman Shiv Das Meena said that strict action will be taken against violators. “Every year, the problem of pollution in Delhi remains big in winter. We are working to reduce pollution. We are strictly adhering to the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) rules. Action being taken against violators. 50 teams have been sent for on field inspection,” Mr Meena said.
  5. The national capital has seen a spike in air pollution after stubble burning incidents from these three states that border Delhi; the share of stubble burning in Delhi’s PM2.5 concentration was six per cent on Thursday, according to a central government agency. The Punjab government said that they are not the cause of pollution in Delhi.
  6. Delhi has been witnessing “very poor” air quality, even as stricter anti-air pollution measures, including a ban on electricity generators, came into force under the GRAP.
  7. On Thursday, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had said that stubble burning only contributes four per cent to Delhi-NCR pollution with the rest caused by local factors, drawing a strong reaction from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “Air (in NCR) was clean before that. It is the same story every year. There’s no massive jump in any local source of pollution in last few days to cause this spike,” said Mr Kejriwal.
  8. Mr Kejriwal has launched several campaigns to control air pollution. He recently inaugurated a “green war room” at the Delhi Secretariat where satellite data related to farm fires in the neighbouring states will be analysed.
  9. NASA’s satellite imagery has showed a large cluster of farm fires near Amritsar, Patiala, Tarn Taran, and Firozpur in Punjab, and Ambala and Rajpura in Haryana. Punjab has reported 3,517 farm fires so far this season as compared to 1,217 in the corresponding period last year. Haryana, meanwhile, has reported 1,710 stubble burning incidents against 1,072 in the corresponding period last year.
  10. During his tenure as Supreme Court judge, Justice (retd) Lokur had dealt with pollution matter which included the aspect of stubble burning.

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