Centre informed the SC that an Enforcement Task Force had been formed to enforce compliance with the measures laid down to curb pollution
New Delhi: In a pre-emptive move, the Central government on Friday informed the Supreme Court that an Enforcement Task Force (ETF) with 40 “flying squad” members had been set up to enforce compliance with the various measures laid down to bring down air pollution in the national capital, which turned “severe” on Friday.
The court directed the Centre and the governments of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to ensure adherence to the directions issued by the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas.
Vested with powers to take punitive and preventive steps against non-compliant/defaulting persons and entities, the five-member task force has two independent members. The top court had Thursday questioned the effectiveness of the jumbo-sized commission which has everyone from government ministries and departments.
Initially, the court was informed that the ETF will have 17 flying squads, which will be augmented to 40 within 24 hours. The ETF will function in addition to the steps being taken by the Central Pollution Control Board and the pollution boards of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
The Centre’s decision to set up the ETF came soon after the Supreme Court indicated it would form an independent task force to secure the compliance of the measures to bring down the air pollution. The court favoured an independent task force in the wake of repeated floundering of government agencies in enforcing the steps to curb air pollution.
Asking the Centre, the Delhi government and the NCR states of Haryana and UP to strictly adhere to the directions issued by the commission, a special bench comprising Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant permitted the Uttar Pradesh government to approach the commission for relaxation of the eight-hour operational restrictions on sugarcane crushers, sugar mills and those engaged in milk dairy operations.
Besides other directions earlier to control air pollution, the commission has ordered that all schools, colleges and educational institutions will remain closed, and only those trucks operating on clean fuel or electricity will be allowed to enter Delhi. All industrial units running on fuel other than clean fuel can run only for eight hours and stay shut on weekends.
Only five of 11 thermal power plants will be operational till December 15.
The court sought details on the availability of the standby alternative power supply to meet shortfall due to putting on standstill six thermal power plants within a 300 km range around the national capital.
Reacting to the Centre’s decision to constitute the ETF, senior lawyer Vikas Singh, appearing for petitioner student Aditya Dubey, on a sceptical note told the court that last year when the court appointed the one-member Justice Madan B. Lokur Committee to monitor curbs on stubble burning, the Centre promulgated a law constituting the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas. He said this time when the court indicated setting up of an independent task force to monitor the implementation of steps to curb air pollution, the Centre has come with an Enforcement Task Force.
The court allowed the Delhi government to resume construction activity for seven new Covid-19 hospitals and for providing better infrastructure facilities at 19 existing hospitals.