The Centre has issued an ordinance, making pollution an offence with a jail term, which can go up to 5 years and a penalty up to Rs 1 crore. The ordinance was issued on Wednesday night after the approval of the President.
Earlier, this week Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, during the hearing of a PIL seeking a ban on stubble burning, had informed the Supreme Court that the Centre will enact a law to combat the menace of air pollution in Delhi-NCR, and urged the court to keep its order of a one-man panel of former apex court judge Justice Madan B. Lokur in abeyance to monitor steps to contain stubble burning. The top court is scheduled to hear this PIL later in the day.
According to the ordinance, a Commission for Air Quality Management will be set up for the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. “Any non-compliance of this Ordinance, rules made thereunder or any other order or direction issued by the Commission shall be an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to five years or with fine which may extend up to one crore rupees or with both”, said the ordinance.
The chairman of the Commission will be selected by a committee headed by the minister for environment and forest and it will also comprise ministers for transport and commerce, science and technology as well as Cabinet secretary, as members.
The 18-member Commission will be headed by a full-time chairperson who has been a secretary to the government of India or Chief Secretary of a state. Out of the 18 members, 10 will be bureaucrats while others are experts and activists.
The Commission will look into issues of stubble burning, vehicular pollution, dust pollution and all other factors, which contribute towards the deteriorating the quality of air in Delhi-NCR.
One of the important aspects of the commission is that Centre has proposed to replace the Supreme Court-appointed EPCA and all other bodies with it, which will make this Commission an exclusive authority on air quality management for Delhi-NCR, and it submit annual reports to Parliament.
The commission will be a central body for all purposes.
Orders of the Commission can be challenged only before National Green Tribunal and not in any civil court.
The notification by the Ministry of Law and Justice said an ordinance will provide for the constitution of a commission for better coordination, research, identification and resolution of problems surrounding the air quality index.
The quality of air in NCR and adjoining areas remains a cause of concern and it has become necessary to evolve and implement a consolidated approach for monitoring, tackling and eliminating the causes of air pollution and identifying, specifying and rigorously enforcing measures for elimination and mitigation of air pollution including but not limited to controlling or eliminating the activities of stubble burning, vehicular pollution, road dust and urban construction.
The notification said that the committee set up under the Environmental Protection Act 1986 has taken measures to deal with the menace of air pollution in NCR but air quality remains a concern on account of the lack of a statutory mechanism for vigorous implantation of the various measures.
While the courts have set up committees to aid and assist the implementation of the orders, it is now considered necessary to have a statutory authority with appropriate powers and charged with the duty of taking comprehensive measures to tackle air pollution on a war footing with power to coordinate with relevant states and the Central government and issue directions to statutory authorities under various laws.
The notification says it is necessary to have a consolidated and conjoint approach in monitoring, tackling and researching air pollution caused due to several factors.
India is committed to creating a clean environment and pollution free air as mandated in the Constitution of India. In place of the ad hoc measures and to provide a permanent solution, a Commission is being set up.
The Ordinance seeks to provide a broad-based Central commission for monitoring air pollution, enforcing laws and research and development.
Adjoining areas would mean the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan adjoining the NCT of Delhi where any source of pollution can be located causing adverse impact on air quality in NCR.
It will be a broad-based commission consisting of a chairperson, a representative of the Environment Ministry and representatives of the states among several other members. (IANS)