The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre and the states in the National Capital Region (NCR) to implement the orders of the panel on air quality management to curb air pollution while ruing that some sections of the media have 'portrayed' it as a 'villain' which wants to close down schools in New Delhi.
A special bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana also took note of measures taken by the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas on Thursday and asked the Centre, Delhi and states in the National Capital Region (NCR) to follow the directions.
In an affidavit, the commission told the bench, also comprising justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant, that a five-member enforcement task force has been set up to contain air pollution in Delhi and NCR.
Forty such squads would monitor the implementation of measures suggested by it to deal with pollution, the panel said.
Seventeen such flying squads have been constituted to ensure the implementation of various measures mandated by the court and the panel. The number would be raised to 40 within 24 hours, the affidavit said.
Ban on entry of trucks, excluding those carrying essential goods and those running on cleaner fuel, will continue, it said.
Taking a note of the measures, the bench ordered, 'We have perused affidavit by Centre and the Delhi government. We have taken into consideration the directions proposed. We direct the Centre and the government of National Capital Territory to implement the orders of December 2 and we keep the matter pending and will hear it on next Friday.'
At the outset, the bench referred to certain news reports and said a message 'intentionally or unintentionally' been sent that the court is the 'villain' and it is ordering the closure of schools.
'One thing which we observed is whether intentional or unintentional and some sections of media portrays us that we are the villains who want to close down the schools. You (Delhi government) on your own opened the schools. But, see the newspapers..,' the chief justice said.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the Delhi government, referred to a news report and said that one English newspaper reported that the apex court threatened to take over the administration.
'You (Delhi government) can condemn all of this but where do we go? Where did we say that we will take up an administrative role... We cannot interfere with the freedom of speech and expression and a political party can hold a press conference but we cannot do so,' the bench said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, in a lighter vein, quoted Mark Twain: 'If you do not read newspapers you are uninformed and if you read them then you are ill-informed.'
The bench said the issue of rise in pollution was not adversarial litigation and it will keep monitoring the solution.
It asked the Uttar Pradesh government to approach the commission on air quality management with its grievance against the direction that the industries, which was not running on cleaner fuel in NCR, will be allowed to operate for eight hours a day only.
Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for Uttar Pradesh, said sugarcane crushing goes on continuously in this season and the direction will harm farmers.
The apex court, on Thursday, said nothing was happening on ground to control the deteriorating air quality in Delhi-NCR and directed the Centre and Delhi government to come out with suggestions to control the pollution within 24 hours.
It 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.