Deplorable Air Quality In Delhi NCR: SC Declines To Revoke Ban On Use Of Petcoke, Furnace Oil In UP, Rajasthan & Haryana

The Supreme Court bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta on Wednesday declined to allow applications for the recall of its order dated October 24, imposing a ban on the use of petcoke and furnace oil as fuels in any industrial process in the states of Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh w.e.f., November 1.

The apex court had passed the aforesaid order with a view to tackle the increasing menace of air pollution in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Subsequently, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had issued a notification on November 15 under section 5 of the Environment Protection Act of 1986, prohibiting any industry, process or operation in the complete territory of the three states adjoining Delhi and not merely in the National Capital Region (NCR) from using petcoke and furnace oil.

Applications for modification of the said order were filed by industrial units engaged in paper manufacturing, malting, production of agro-foods, etc and based in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Applications for recall of the October 24 order were also moved by the power generation company, National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd, and the aluminium manufacturer, Hindalco Industries Ltd. “In view of the deplorable quality of air in Delhi NCR, we do not deem fit to revoke the ban imposed by us on the use of petcoke and furnace oils,” ruled the bench on Wednesday.

When senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of Hindalco and other industrial units, contended that if the court refuses to lift the ban, several small and medium enterprises will be compelled to close down, resulting in the unemployment of thousands of persons, the top court reprimanded the senior counsel for making such arguments and retorted, “This court might as well be closed down.”

The court also declined to entertain the prayers for grant of more time for converting to alternative, cleaner sources of energy, holding, “In view of the notification issued by the Government of India, MoEF & CC on 15th November, 2017, the applications have become infructuous. They are disposed of as such.”

On Friday, the Supreme Court bench had urged all state governments and union territories to issue similar directions prohibiting the use of petcoke and furnace oil by any industry, operation or process within their jurisdiction as issued by MoEF & CC and CPCB. Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing as amicus curiae in the present matter, forwarded a recommendation for imposing a ban on not just the use, but also the sale of the said fuels in the three states surrounding Delhi.