In response to deteriorating air quality in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), the Supreme Court has issued a firm directive, requiring the governments of Punjab, Rajasthan, and Haryana to take immediate action to prevent stubble burning by farmers. The Court emphasized that this practice is a major contributor to air pollution.

The bench, comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia, has assigned the local State House Officer, under the supervision of the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police, the responsibility of preventing crop burning. Additionally, the Court has mandated a meeting to be held tomorrow among the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan to ensure the immediate cessation of crop burning.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court has instructed the Delhi Government to ensure that municipal solid waste is not burned in the city during the open, which has been a common practice. The amicus curiae in the case, Senior Advocate AparajithaSingh, informed the Court that the smog towers installed by the Delhi Government, as per previous directions, are not functioning. The Court expressed its concern and directed the Delhi Government to take immediate action to repair the smog towers.

The Court has also directed the Delhi Government to ensure that only taxis registered in Delhi are allowed to operate in the capital, as a significant number of taxis from other states with only one passenger are currently plying in the national capital region.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, presiding over the bench, made it clear that stubble burning must stop, and the responsibility falls on the local administration to take necessary actions to achieve this goal. The Court emphasized that while it is concerned with the issue of stubble burning, it acknowledges that it is not the sole cause of pollution but is a significant contributing factor.

The Advocate General of Punjab, Gurminder Singh, recognized the need to address crop burning but cited economic reasons behind this practice by farmers. He suggested that the central government provide subsidies for necessary facilities and proposed transitioning from paddy cultivation to other crops, exploring alternative Minimum Support Prices for different crops.

In its order, the Supreme Court highlighted the need to shift to alternative crops other than paddy, particularly since paddy is not native to Punjab. The Court underlined that this change is essential to avoid recurring stubble burning problems and noted the central government’s ongoing policy to encourage the cultivation of traditional crops.

The Court called for prompt action from all stakeholders and directed the Cabinet Secretary to convene a meeting with all concerned parties on the issue. Additionally, the Court instructed the State of Punjab to strictly enforce the Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act 2009.

The Court has scheduled a hearing for the upcoming Friday to monitor the progress of these directives. It emphasized the urgency of addressing the issue, stating that the health problems faced by Delhi residents necessitate immediate attention and court oversight, regardless of whether the situation improves.

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