Friday, December 1, 2023

SC ponders audit on Kejri govt for pollution money it makes and spends on “popularity slogans”

The Supreme Court pondered an audit on the revenue the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi makes in the name of Environment Compensation Charge from the citizens of the Capital. 

The bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant was beside themselves after senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, made excuses on the unbreathable air of the toxic, polluted Capital. 

“This kind of lame excuses will force us to hold an audit of the revenue you are earning and spend on populariton slogans,” said the bench. 

(This was in response to Mehra mumbling that municipal corporation be asked to file an affidavit after the Supreme Court wanted to know about the measures taken for dust-cleaning.)

Amit Malviya, the IT chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), thereafter tweeted with documents which showed that upwards of Rs 150 crores have gone “missing” between July and September of this year. 

“The time for audit is NOW. In responses to a RTI query on 19 September 2021, Delhi govt admits collecting a sum of Rs 1286.93 crore (2015-to date) towards Environment Compensation Charge. The amount was Rs 1439.65 crore in a response given in Assembly on 29 July 2021. Where the money go? Ads?

A recent news report in New Indian Express had stated that Rs 940 crore was spend on ads on pollution by the Kejriwal government in the last seven years but there was no details on the legwork it did towards its alleviation.

The Court also took exception to the affidavit filed by the Delhi government which blamed farmers and stated that the entire cause for pollution in the NCR region is stubble burning in neighbouring states. 

“We are targeting an insignificant source of pollution here,” Justice Chandrachud said. 

This was an opinion echoed by Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta who submitted that stubble-burning was contributing only 10% to city’s pollution. If anything Mehta stressed on dust-control measures. 

“Dust control measures be taken at the construction site. We have suggested that diesel generation sets be stopped unless needed like in hospitals. Advise people with respiratory issues to avoid venturing out. Fines for one indulging in garbage burning.”

Meanwhile, the Centre urged the Supreme Court that a lockdown would be the most drastic measure taken to curb air pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR). 

Centre also claimed that the other measure could include odd-even scheme for vehicular movement and a ban on the entry of trucks in the Capital. 

The Supreme Court asked the executive committee to create and decide an action plan by Tuesday evening. 

“Please decide which industries can be stopped, which vehicles can be prevented from plying and which power plants can be stopped and how you can provide alternative power by then,” CJI Ramana said. 

Advocate Mehra stressed that a lockdown may be imposed but due to lack of air boundaries, the entire NCR would need to be locked down. 

However, CJI Ramana refused to advice on measurers. He directed that after a decision is taken, the same be reported to the Court. 

“The commission under the Act has not indicated what steps will be taken to control the pollution-causing elements. We direct Centre to have an emergency meeting tomorrow and take into account points cited by us.”

The matter would be heard again on Wednesday. 

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