Hearing pollution matters regularly so that people can get clean air: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday said it is hearing matters related to severe air pollution in Delhi and National Capital Region “day in and day out” so that people, especially the children, could breath clean air.

The apex court observed this while coming down heavily on the Delhi Transport Department, which has filed an affidavit raising objections over the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) asking it to purchase five machines to identify polluting vehicles.

The department requested the court to consider asking it to purchase “only one or two machines” for remote sensing technology to identify such vehicles.

“Do not you think that people and children should live in a clean environment?,” a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta told the counsel appearing for the Delhi Transport Department.

“Why only one or two (machines)? Why not five?”.

The bench said Delhi’s air quality has been at its “best” now after such a long time.

“Today, this year we have the best time so far as (far as) air quality is concerned,” the bench said, adding, “We are taking up this matter day in and day out to ensure clean air”.

“You should not have filed such objections. You can raise valid objections,” the bench observed.

Senior advocate Aparajita Singh, who is assisting the top court as an amicus curiae in the pollution matter, also pointed out to the affidavit filed by transport department and said that air quality in Delhi has come to the best after such a long period only due to the orders passed by the court.

“All this (improvement in air quality) has happened only because of the court,” Singh told the bench.

In its affidavit, the Delhi transport department has pointed out “some shortcomings” in the study conducted by International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) which has scanned about 1.76 lakh vehicles and found the remote sensing technology to be useful.

“As regards the EPCA suggestion for purchase of five machines by the Delhi Transport Department, it is submitted that at this initial stage, this court may consider the purchase of only one or two machines by the Delhi Transport Department and the same can be later increased gradually,” the affidavit said.

It said the number of devices can be increased once sufficient experience over a period of time is gained by the Delhi Transport Department and challenges in implementing the remote sensing in India, as pointed out in the ICAT study, are overcome.

The transport department said it can issues tender for induction of remote sensing devices only after the specifications or standards are fixed by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and machines certified accordingly are available.

In a separate affidavit filed in the apex court, the MoRTH has said that considering the “diversity and extensiveness” of the country, the system of remote sensing programme for monitoring on-road emission of vehicles would be possible only on limited stretches.

“The current programme of pollution check through the PUC centres for the vehicles in the idle condition is suitable and for the time being remains an essential part of the pollution management system,” the MORTH said.

The bench, which posted the matter for further hearing after two months, asked the MORTH to file a status report on the issue of remote sensing technology.

On July 29, the top court had asked the MoRTH and Delhi Transport Department to respond to the EPCA’s report on the use of remote sensing technology to help identify polluting vehicles.

The amicus curiae had earlier told the top court that remote sensing technology would help in checking emission of particulate matter (PM) and other hazardous substances like nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur oxides (SOx) from vehicles.

The EPCA report has said that MoRTH needs to frame rules under the Central Motor Vehicle Act and define the scope and use of remote sensing programme for monitoring and enforcement of on-road emissions.

The report said that transport department of Delhi will be responsible for implementation of the programme in the city and once successful, transport departments of national capital region (NCR) districts can be directed to implement the same.

It said that transport department of Delhi can issue global tender for procurement of remote sensing equipment and its operations.

The issue of remote sensing technology has cropped up before the court when it was hearing a matter relating to air pollution in Delhi-NCR.

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