President Ram Nath Kovind has signed an ordinance or executive order for the formation of a committee to look into the air quality management in Delhi and its adjoining areas. The ordinance comes ahead of Thursday's hearing of the pollution issue in the Supreme Court.
On Monday, the Centre told the Supreme Court that it would create a permanent body through legislation to deal with the annual air pollution problem in Delhi and its surrounding areas. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the government, had said the new legislation will be brought within three or four days.
Accepting the Centre's request, the court had then suspended the one-man committee of retired judge Justice MB Lokur to oversee steps to tackle stubble burning.
The ordinance issued on Wednesday constitutes a commission for air quality management in the National Capital Region for better coordination, research, identification and resolution of problems surrounding the air quality index.
The 18-member commission will be headed by a chairperson appointed by the Centre. This will have representatives from Delhi, Haryana, UP, Punjab and Rajasthan.
The commission shall have the power to issue directions to abate pollution crisis, take up matters suo moto on basis of complaints, stop power supply or take action against any entity or industry, the Ordinance read. It also said offences could be punishable with imprisonments upto a term or 5 years, with fine which may extend to Rs 1 crore or more.
According to the Ordinance, this commission will replace all other committees to streamline public participation, inter-state cooperation in managing air pollution in the NCR and its adjoining areas.
On October 16, the Supreme Court had appointed retired judge Justice Madan B Lokur to monitor stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh -- a key source of the pollution every winter.
At the time, the court had declined to accept the Centre's request to reconsider the appointment.
Top sources in the Environment Ministry said the new committee will be in charge of tackling not just stubble burning but the overall pollution in the National Capital Region. The sources had also told NDTV on Monday that the new committee will be a permanent body that would replace the EPCA -- Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority -- led by Bhure Lal.
The annual winter pollution in Delhi and its adjoining areas has been a matter of great concern this year, with experts saying it could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases.
Over the last two days, the national capital has been logging over 4,000 cases a day. Today, in a first since the outbreak reached delhi, the daily spike in coronavirus cases crossed 5,000 and touched 5,673.