Holding meetings, writing letters and shifting responsibility from one to the other for non-performance can hardly be made an excuse for meeting "such a bad environmental emergency", the National Green Tribunal told government after hearing lawyers of different agencies speak about the steps that they had taken.
"You (officials) go to the hospital and see what kind of trouble people are facing. You kept playing with people's life. Right to life has been infringed with impunity by the authorities and other stakeholders who have been mere spectators to such crisis," the bench led by the Green court's chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said, according to news agency Press Trust of India.
The judge also banned construction and industrial activities in Delhi-NCR that are causing emissions till November 14, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
In the Delhi High Court two km away, a bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sanjeev Sachdeva called the deadly cocktail of dust, pollutants and noxious gases, which has led to a 20 per cent spike in patients reporting respiratory problems, an "emergency situation".
When representatives of the Delhi Government tried to blame stubble burning for much of the air pollution that was choking Delhi, the high court judges reminded that London had faced such as situation back in 1952 too. "They call it a pea soup fog. It is a killer," the bench said.
But stubble burning wasn't the only contributor, the court observed.
"Stubble burning is the visible villain in it, but there are other elephants in the room," the court said, ordering the Union Environment Secretary to sit with officials from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to come up with a joint short-term plan.
The high court told the officials to explore all options including "cloud seeding" - spraying chemicals that enrich rain-bearing clouds - to induce rainfall artificially. It wasn't, however, impressed with the four-fold increase in parking fees that many feel could be counter-productive because governments had failed to provide last-mile connectivity for people to reach even Delhi Metro stations.