Terming the rise in air pollution in Delhi-NCR an "emergency" situation, the Supreme Court asked the Centre and the Delhi government on Saturday to take immediate measures to improve the air quality and suggested steps such as stopping vehicles and clamping a lockdown in the national capital.
The court said the situation of pollution is so bad that people are wearing masks inside their houses.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said there are other reasons for pollution such as vehicular emissions, firecrackers and dust, and singling out stubble burning is not the solution.
"Your projection is as if farmers are responsible for this pollution. Seventy per cent. First let the Delhi people be controlled. Where is the effective mechanism to control fire crackers, vehicle pollution etc.?
"We understand some per cent is stubble burning. Rest is crackers, vehicular pollution, industries, dust pollution etc. You tell us how to bring AQI levels from 500 to 200 points in Delhi. Take some immediate urgent measures like a two-day lockdown," the bench, also comprising justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant, said.
The apex court has asked the Centre to revert on Monday.
It also took note of the fact that schools have opened in the national capital and asked the authorities to take immediate measures such as stopping vehicles or imposing a lockdown in Delhi.
Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said there is stubble burning in Punjab and the state will have to do something in this regard.
The bench, however, said, "Your projection is as if farmers are only responsible. What about steps taken to contain the pollution in Delhi?"
Mehta clarified that he was not even remotely suggesting that only farmers are responsible for the pollution.
When senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, mentioned the issue of stubble burning, the bench said, "Be the petitioners, the Delhi government or anybody else -- it has become a fashion to blame the farmers. Have you seen how crackers are being burnt in Delhi for the last seven days? What was the Delhi police doing?"
The apex court was hearing a plea filed by environmental activist Aditya Dubey and law student Aman Banka, who sought directions to provide stubble-removing machines to small and marginal farmers for free.