SC constitutes committee to monitor farm fires in Punjab, Haryana, UP

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The Supreme Court on Friday constituted a one-member committee headed by one of its former judges, Justice Madan B Lokur, to carry out physical surveillance on farm fires in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh causing air pollution in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) and submit a report after the Dussehra vacation.

The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde ordered that all authorities in Delhi and Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority will report to Justice Lokur Committee. He added that corps such as National Cadet Corps, Bharat Scouts and Guides and National Service Scheme can be deployed for the Lokur Committee to carry out the surveillance of the fields where stubble burning is likely to take place. These mobile teams will inform about such farm fires based on which the authorities will take action.

The order came on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by two young environmental activists who demanded that immediate steps be taken to stop the stubble burning. They claimed that despite the court monitoring, states were not acting enough to curb this menace.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, who represented the two activists, said farm fires had increased by five times this year and an immediate order will be needed to arrest this problem which could lead to an unmanageable situation when the court reopens. He made the suggestion to appoint Justice Lokur for the purpose.

The court heard the states of Punjab and Haryana and recorded in its order that adequate steps have been taken but preventive steps need to be put in place amid the rising pollution in Delhi and NCR. “We are concerned that citizens of Delhi and NCR should breathe good, clean air,” said the bench, also comprising Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian.

The top court has asked state chief secretaries to provide all assistance to the Lokur committee and arrange for infrastructure, transportation and security of the panel and the mobile teams.

The committee will also have the mandate to suggest additional means and methods for preventing the burning of stubble.

After the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for UP and Haryana said that the states were not put to notice on the proposal to form Justice Lokur Committee and requested the court to continue monitoring by EPCA. The bench, however, refused to change its order and deprecated the practice of mentioning out of turn. Mehta informed the bench that he couldn’t log in when the case was taken up

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