“Let us at least make an endeavour for the next winter to be a little better,” a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia said.
Crop burning “must stop,” Justice Kaul said while underscoring the need for judicial monitoring to ensure people do not face the same scenario every winter.
The apex court observed that farm fires were still significant.
The top court was hearing a matter related to an air pollution issue in Delhi-NCR during the winter, year after year.
The bench took note that several meetings of the committee chaired by the Union Cabinet Secretary were held and it has prepared an action plan for states, including Punjab and Haryana, to deal with the issue.
The bench asked the states concerned to implement the action plans and submit progress reports before the apex court within two months.
“Possibly, this matter needs continuous monitoring. What happens is that when the problem arises, we suddenly take it up. The court must monitor it for some time,” the bench observed.
Attorney General R Venkataramani also submitted a note on the Centre’s behalf about the steps to be taken to check farm fires and also placed the minutes of meetings of the committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary.
“There is something to be done by Punjab, something to be done by Haryana, something to be done by Delhi and something to be done by different ministries,” the court said.
The Punjab government has also filed an affidavit containing details about the recovery of environmental compensation from those responsible for crop residue burning.
On the last hearing, the top court was informed by the Punjab that a total of Rs two crore environmental compensation had been imposed on the offenders.
The bench today noted that the recovered amount is still only about 53 per of the penalty imposed.
“Recoveries must be speeded up,” it asked.
The bench has now posted the matter for hearing on February 27.
The apex court was seized of a plea filed in 1985 on air pollution and the vexed issue of crop residue burning arose from it. (ANI)