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Finish installing smog towers in Delhi in 10 months or face contempt, SC tells Centre

Tata Consultancy will be responsible for installing smog towers, which are air purifiers, while National Buildings Construction Corporation will construct them.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court has stipulated a 10-month deadline for the installation of smog towers in Delhi, failing which the court will initiate contempt proceedings.

The order given by a bench led by Justice Arun Mishra was pronounced on 31 August, after the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, and the Department of Environment and Forests, and Delhi government submitted undertakings before the court to complete the task within a fixed timeframe.

“Undertakings are taken on record. 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,” the bench said.

The Supreme Court had in January this year given its nod to the proposal of installing smog towers to curb rising pollution levels in the national capital. 

This was done after the Centre submitted a proposal to the top court following a study conducted by a high-level committee constituted on court orders. The panel suggested smog towers after studying the use and feasibility of various technologies.

Smog towers are essentially large-scale air purifiers. On 13 January, the court had asked the Central Pollution Control Board to install smog towers at two locations in Delhi — Connaught Place and Anand Vihar — within three months. 

A second order on 28 February asked the authorities to start work on smog towers and intimate the court about its status by 6 March.  

Also read: Delhi air clean in lockdown but high pollution seen for few hours after dawn — JNU-DU study

No work despite court order

The bench noted the failure of the authorities to comply with its direction to install the towers in three mothers. However, it did not proceed with any action, taking into account the fresh undertakings furnished by the authorities.

“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,” said the bench, also comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari.

The order also recorded the government’s submission that the requisite money for the project has been transferred to Tata Consultancy, which will be responsible for the installation of the towers. The National Buildings Construction Corporation will construct the towers.

Further, it was stated in the affidavit filed on behalf of the Ministry of Environment and Forest that a sum of Rs 52 lakh has been transferred to Clean air CARE LLC, the licensee of the University of Minnesota, which is a part of the project.

IIT Bombay pulled up by court

As the concept and technology was discussed with a professor of IIT Bombay, the apex court had entrusted the institute with the responsibility to take up the project.

On 30 July, the Centre informed the court that IIT Bombay had decided to back out of its role in overseeing the implementation of the project. This left the bench displeased with the institute and threatened to take strict action against it. The court said IIT Bombay cannot withdraw in such a manner. 

The government’s seriousness in finishing the project was also questioned by the judges.

After getting an earful, the government came back to the court a day later and informed them about the discussions it had with the officials of IIT Bombay. During a subsequent hearing, the Centre placed before the court a detailed timeline and proposal for the project.

Also read: Delhi’s air pollution masks a class war that nobody is willing to talk about


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