Saturday, December 9, 2023

CJI Chandrachud dismisses urgent listing of petition against stubble burning

Newly appointed  chief justice of India DY Chandrachud has refused urgent listing of a petition seeking an end of stubble burning which has turned India’s Capital into a toxic poisonous chamber. 

The CJI also ruled, bizarrely, that ending stubble burning will not end air pollution. 

The pleading for urgent listing by advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha on the matter has thus gone to bin. 

The Writ Petition has been filed under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution to protect the interest of the public at large who are suffering from air pollution.

Jha, in his petition, mentioned that banning of stubble burning could be effective in tackling the pollution issue. However, the CJI didn’t agree. He said the ban against every farmer won’t work and what the country needs is some “genuine solutions.”

“Let’s find some genuine solutions, this is not the way,” the CJI said. He also suggested that the matter is not judicially amendable, and therefore the court can’t take it up immediately. “There are some things that courts can do and some things courts can’t. We handle matters which are judicially amenable. We will not take it up immediately,” CJI DY Chandrachud reportedly said, as per OpIndia.

Talking about the severity of the situation, the PIL cites the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report released by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), which says that residents of Delhi stand to lose 10 years of life due to air pollution. It mentions how the air quality index in Delhi has reached dangerous levels crossing 400+.

The petition then adds that stubble burning in the region continues, with 2,109 fire incidents recorded on November 1, out of which 1,842 incidents were from Punjab alone. “the situation is so worse that National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has recommended that the schools of Delhi must be closed in order to protect the children from severe air-pollution,” says the PIL.

Advocate Jha mentions that despite orders of the Supreme Court, the governments have not taken steps to ensure a complete ban on stubble burning, and in fact, it has increased by 21% in Punjab this year. The PIL states reports saying that the share of stubble burning in Delhi’s PM2.5 pollution jumped to 38 per cent, which is the main reason behind thick layer of pungent smog over national capital. The PIL also states how the AQI in the region continues to be in severe category.

According to data provided by the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the share of stubble burning in PM.25 pollutants had jumped to 38% on November 3rd, the highest this season.

As per a study by the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT Delhi) published earlier this year, biomass burning contributes the most to the air pollution of the national capital. The report also had said that pollution from firecrackers used on Diwali is insignificant, as the pollutants from Diwali firecrackers are heavy and they don’t even remain in the air for a day.

The study says that firecrackers mainly generate metallic elements, high levels of black carbon, and gaseous pollutants like carbon monoxide, along with oxides of sulphur and nitrogen. The study found that while the concentration of these elements peaked at around midnight on Diwali, their level plummeted to around one-third by the following day.

BJP MP Manoj Tiwari had moved the apex court challenging the blanket ban on firecrackers in Delhi, which goes against an earlier Supreme Court order denying such blanket bans. But despite the fact that the Delhi govt’s ban violated the court’s own order, the Supreme Court had refused to hear the matter before Diwali. The court had said “Let People Breathe Clean Air”, thereby ruling that Diwali is responsible for polluted air despite facts stating otherwise.

In fact, last year the Supreme Court even rejected a study by IIT Kanpur which also had concluded that  firecrackers are not among the top pollutants. When it was mentioned in the court that the IIT-Kanpur report does not list firecrackers even in the list of top 15 contributors to air pollution, a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna had commented that they do not need IIT to understand that firecrackers cause pollution.

The IIT-Kanpur report commissioned by the Delhi Government in 2016 had found that Diwali was not the major cause of pollution, and air pollution in Delhi were more than the Diwali day in days and weeks after Diwali. That report also had found that pollution caused by Diwali is extremely short-lived.

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