(1.)ARTICLES 39(e), 47 and 48-A by themselves and collectively cast a duty on the State to secure the health of the people, improve public health and protect and improve the environment. It was by reason of the lack of effort on the part of the enforcement agencies, notwithstanding adequate laws being in place, that this Court has been concerned with the state of air pollution in the capital of this country. Lack of concern or effort on the part of various governmental agencies had resulted in spiralling pollution levels. The quality of air was steadily decreasing and no effective steps were being taken by the administration in this behalf.
(2.)IT was by reason of the failure to discharge its constitutional obligations, and with a view to protect the health of the present and future generations, that this Court, for the first time, on 23/09/1986, directed the Delhi Administration to file an affidavit specifying steps taken by it for controlling pollution emission of smoke, noise, etc. from vehicles plying in Delhi.
The concern of this Court in passing various orders since 1986 has only been one, namely, to protect the health of the people of Delhi. It is only with this objective in mind that directions had been issued in an effort to persuade the governmental authorities to take such steps as would reduce the air pollution. It is as a result of intervention by this Court that the following measures were taken in controlling pollution to some extent.
(a) lowering of sulphur content in diesel, first to 0.50% and then to 0.05%;
(b) ensuring supply of only lead free petrol;
(c) requiring the fitting of catalytic converters;
(d) directing the supply of pre-mix 2T oil for lubrication of engines of two-wheelers and three-wheelers;
(e) directing the phasing out of grossly polluting old vehicles;
(f) directing the lowering of the benzene content in petrol; and
(g) ensuring that new vehicles, petrol and diesel, meet Euro-II standards by September, 2000.
It was during the course of these proceedings that the Bhure Lal Committee was established under Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority is a statutory authority constituted under Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and its directions are final and binding on all persons and organisations concerned. This position has been reiterated by this Court in Sector 14 Residents' Welfare Association and Others v. State of Delhi and Others, (1999) 1 SCC 161. It is this authority which had directed the phasing out of non-CNG buses. It is the Bhure Lal Committee which had also recommended the conversion to CNG mode and issued directions that non-CNG buses should be phased out.
(3.)IT is the report of the Bhure Lal Committee which was accepted, and orders were passed by this Court on 28/07/1998, fixing the time limit within which the switch-over to CNG was to take place. IT may be mentioned here that the need for finding an alternative fuel to diesel had been drawing the attention of this Court for quite some time. This is evident from the order dated 21/10/1994, in which it was observed as follows :-
"On an earlier occasion when these matters came up before this Court it was suggested that to begin with of Government vehicles and public undertaking vehicles including public transport vehicles could be equipped with CNG cylinders with necessary modification in the vehicles to avoid pollution which is hazardous to the health of the people living in highly polluted cities like Delhi and the other metros in the country."
Again, in the order dated 28/03/1995, and 9/02/1996, long before the receipt of the Bhure Lal Committee report, there is a reference to conversion of government vehicles to CNG, as well as to the installation of CNG stations and kits. It is unfortunate that the efforts of the governmental authorities have not kept pace with the orders passed by this Court. For more than one year, under one pretext or the other, first the NCT of Delhi and then the Union of India have been seeking extension of time for conversion of commercial vehicles to CNG. While the anxiety of the Delhi Government, to give it the benefit of doubt, was to see that bus services in this city were not disrupted which was the reason that it had sought extensions of the time limit, the response of the Union of India in this regard is baffling, to say the least.