SC appoints ex-judge M B Lokur as one-man panel to prevent stubble burning

NEW DELHI, Oct 16:
The Supreme Court Friday appointed retired apex court judge Justice Madan B Lokur as a one-man committee to take steps for preventing stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh which is a source of pollution in Delhi-national capital region (NCR).
While directing that National Cadet Corps (NCC), National Service Scheme and Bharat Scouts be deployed for assisting the panel, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde rejected the objection of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on the appointment of the committee saying the concerned states have already been heard.
The apex court directed the court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) and chief secretaries of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh to assist the Lokur panel to enable physical surveillance of fields where stubble is burnt.
“We just want that people of Delhi-NCR can breath fresh air without any pollution,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
Mehta, who appeared for the Centre, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, told the bench that they may have “some reservation” over appointment of the one-man committee and urged that the EPCA should be the monitoring authority for preventing stubble burning.
“We must not trouble Justice Lokur,” Mehta said, urging the bench to post the matter for hearing after Dusherra vacation on this issue.
He said no notices were issued to the Centre and the concerned states on the issue of appointment of a committee.
“We have not given some extraordinary power to Justice Lokur,” the bench said, adding, “We have heard the states and you (Mehta) were not there when we were dictating order for half an hour”.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, who also appeared for the Centre, told the bench that the court may select the committee member from a panel of names.
The top court directed the states concerned to provide adequate security, secretarial infrastructure and transport to Lokur panel.
It said the panel shall submit its report on stubble burning fortnightly to the apex court.
During his tenure as an apex court judge, Justice Lokur had dealt with pollution matter which included the aspect of stubble burning.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by one Aditya Dubey who has raised concern over pollution caused due to stubble burning.
During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that a one-man commission headed by Justice (retd) Lokur be constituted as he has the experience in dealing with environment issues.
The bench observed it has no problem in appointing a commission and asked Singh to take consent of Justice (retd) Lokur.
Singh later told the bench that he has talked to Justice (retd) Lokur and he is ready.
“Is there NCC, Bharat scouts which can be mobilized for the purpose?,” the bench asked.
“Do have NCC battalion. Why can’t NCC go and see who is lighting fire,” the bench asked the counsel representing Haryana.
Senior advocate P S Narasimha, appearing for Punjab, said that pollution in Delhi is not attributable to Punjab.
“The state has taken numerous steps to check air pollution. Punjab historically was wheat growing state,” he said.
However, the bench said, “You don’t go into all these things, we just want to know whether you have sufficient NCC”. (PTI)
Narasimha said they have eight nodal officers who go and check farm fires.
He raised concern that statutory bodies under the law are side-lined and appointed bodies or commission takes a front seat and keeps on giving directions.
“We are not saying anything about EPCA or some other person,” the bench said.