Amima Afsheen Khan
The National Green Tribunal was established in 2010 with a view to providing effective access to judicial remedies for enforcement of the right to a healthy environment which is part of Right to Life under Article 21.
The Tribunal is to enforce principles of ‘Sustainable Development’, ‘Precautionary Principle’ and ‘Polluter Pays’, which are well known in environmental jurisprudence and have been mentioned inter – alia in (1996) 3 SCC 212, Indian Council for Enviro Legal Action & Ors. v. UOI & Ors.
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 was enacted with a view to take remedial action against violation of prescribed standards of air quality. Such standards were laid down under Section 16(2)(h) of the Air Act.
In spite of statutory provisions, large scale air pollution is well acknowledged. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has issued directions in various matters. This Tribunal has also dealt with the issue in several cases including the matter dealing with 122 ‘non-attainment cities’ in the country where the air quality is beyond prescribed norms and on the subject preventing ‘crop residue burning’.
On Sunday, 03.11.2019, at 4.00 PM when the deterioration of air quality in Delhi was reported to be at 494 the Tribunal took perception of the matter and sited it for contemplation before all the Members. The Chairman and Member Secretary of CPCB were asked to remain present.
After interaction with the Chairman and Member Secretary of CPCB who had presented a detailed analysis of the situation, NGT found it necessary to further examine the matter after looking into the status of implementation of GRAP and other measures including preventive strategies currently adopted.
The matter was listed for further consideration on 05.11.2019 at 10.30 AM. The Chief Secretary, Delhi, Chairman, DPCC, Member Secretary, CPCB and the concerned Joint Secretary, MoEF and CC were asked to remain present in person.
The air pollution is a source of ailments and peril to life. As per several studies, statics of death and health hazards have been given. The problem is well acknowledged. Today’s situation is not the creation of one day. It is continuous carelessness and lethargy of statutory authorities in enforcing the law. While counteractive action may continue to be taken in the best possible manner, there is an urgent need to have proper preparation to address the gaps in existing enforcement strategies and existing undesirable situations. There is a need to determine why there is a failure and what should be the precautionary strategies and curative measures to ensure that the present situation does not recur in the future.