The Supreme Court has granted ten months for that the completion of the construction of smog towers in Delhi for the purpose of curbing air pollution.
This was after the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the Department of Environment & Forests, Government of NCT of Delhi undertook before a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra that the work will be completed within 10 months.
The Ministry and the Department further told the Court that the requisite money has been transferred to the Tata Consultancy. Further, it was stated in the affidavit filed on behalf of the MoEF that a sum of Rs. 52 Lakhs has also been transferred to Clean air- CARE LLC, which is the licensee of the University of Minnesota.
While taking the undertakings on record, the bench warned "Any violation on any ground whatsoever shall be treated as contempt of the order passed by this Court as there is already huge unjustified delay in making the compliance of the order".
"However, since steps are being taken and undertakings have been furnished, we have not proceeded for violation of the order passed by this Court, only on the basis of the action taken and undertakings furnished to complete the project. Let the project be positively completed within 10 months", the bench, also including Justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, stated in the order.
The Court passed the order in the MC Mehta case.
In January 2020, a Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra directed the Centre and Delhi Government to ensure that a smog tower, essentially large-scale air purifiers, was set up in the Connaught Place area of New Delhi to tackle the annual problem faced by the national capital in winters. This was directed to be done within 3 months, as a pilot project.
The concept and technology involved was discussed with a professor of IIT Bombay, who was part of a High-Power Committee looking into various technologies and options to tackle air pollution. Thereafter, the Judges gave IIT Bombay the responsibility to take up the project.
The Centre had also assured the Court that smog guns and other similar measures would be in place, especially in areas of the national capital where pollution levels are highest. The IIT Bombay Professor, however, had opined that it would not be feasible to set up smog towers before August 2020.
On July 30, the bench had expressed displeasure at the Centre over the failure to complete the project within the 3-month period initially set by the Court.
When the Solicitor General had informed Court that IIT Bombay had decided to back out of its role in overseeing the implementation of the project, the Bench, through Justice Mishra, had expressed great displeasure and stated that they would take strict action and hinted at drawing contempt proceedings against the institute. The Bench had also questioned the seriousness of the Government in seeing the project through.
Thereafter, the SG had informed Court that the Government had communicated with officials from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT Bombay), pursuant to which, the Institute would be signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and other stakeholders.
After considering the submissions during the course of that hearing, the Apex Court had directed the Centre to file a comprehensive affidavit highlighting all details about the smog tower project in Delhi and why the same was not completed as per Court Orders.
Pursuant to the same, on August 4, the Centre apprised the Court of the real time progress and the responsibilities of the various stakeholders in the project.
It was informed that the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) will construct the tower, while TATA will be responsible for the installation work.
In a related order, the top court directed the Indian Railways to take steps to remove close to 48,000 slum dwellings around the rail tracks in Delhi, within a period of 3 months.
Click here to download the order