Accepting the suggestion of Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, the Supreme Court today appointed former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Madan Lokur, to head a one-man committee to monitor the Stubble burning in Punjab Haryana and UP . The committee’s mandate would be to prevent the problem from assuming unmanageable proportions.
The bench of Chief Justice S. A. Bobde, A. S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, was hearing a plea filed by class 12 student Aditya Dubey, seeking directions to the Punjab and Haryana governments to ban stubble burning against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Stubble burning usually takes place between September and December every year.
Submissions by the Petitioner against Stubble burning in Punjab Haryana and UP
The petitioner has contended that it is on record that Stubble burning in Punjab Haryana and UP contributes almost 40 per cent of air pollution in Delhi. The bench had earlier issued notice on the plea.
Vikas Singh, appearing for the petitioner, says that the state of Punjab filed an affidavit which says that the state has launched an android app to control the fires. He added that though the app has been in existence for a while, there have still been instances of fires.
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Singh said that his prayer is for the constitution of a committee headed by Justice (Retd) Madan Lokur to look into the issue. The bench asked whether Singh has sought Justice Lokur’s consent and whether NCC in the states or MSF can be mobilised for the purpose. Singh submitted that NCC could be suitable. He said he will seek Justice Lokur’s consent once the Court passes an order.
In case of Stubble burning in Punjab Haryana and UP, Haryana and Punjab informed that several steps have been taken to prevent the instance of stubble burning. But Singh said that despite these measures the atmosphere is polluted in Delhi NCR.
He said that it was necessary that there must be some monitoring of stubble burning in Punjab , haryana and UP with a view to its prevention before it assumes huge proportions. That was when the bench accepted the suggestion of Vikas Singh and appointed Justice Madan Lokur as a one-man monitoring committee to look into how to prevent stubble burning in the states.
The bench said in the case of Stubble burning in Punjab Haryana and UP that it trusts the authorities at the disposal of the Lokur Committee for this purpose. The bench directed that the teams already in existence in the state of Punjab and Haryana meant for preventing stubble burning shall take instructions from the Lokur Committee. The states shall provide adequate facilities to the committee for carrying out its job.
The committee for prevention of Stubble burning in Punjab Haryana and UP will report fortnightly, or as and when found necessary, to the Supreme Court. The EPCA will report to the committee.
Objection on Appointment by SG Tushar Mehta
Just as the Bench was about to rise for the day, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta urged the Court not to sign its order for appointment of the committee.
On being asked why he was making this request, Mehta said that there are some reservations and he may be heard by the Court on the next date of hearing before considering to set up the committee for prevention of Stubble burning in Punjab Haryana and UP.
The Court then highlighted that the matter was heard at length for half an hour and the recommendation was made for appointment and consent from the judge was already sought. Thus it could not go back on its order.
“We heard the matter at length for half an hour. We heard everyone. The consent of the judge was taken. We passed the order in open Court. You tell us what your reservations are orally.”
“Recommendation was made by the petitioner, consent was taken by them. We were not even put on notice”, Mehta said.
The matter has now been listed for October 26.