Procure buses for Delhi on ‘war-footing’: high court to AAP govt
New Delhi: With the national capital gasping for breath, the Delhi high court on Tuesday termed the need for more buses in the city a “grave urgency” and said the AAP government needed to address it on a “war-footing”.
It noted that despite the passage of 19 years since a Supreme Court order, the government of Delhi has not yet achieved the target set by the top court. A bench of acting chief justice Gita Mittal and justice C. Hari Shankar made the observation while declining to stop the Delhi government from procuring 2,000 more standard floor buses for the people of the national capital.
The bench reminded the Delhi government about the Supreme Court’s 27 July 1998 direction to augment the fleet of buses from 5,000 to 10,000. The court also observed that if the Delhi government’s recent odd-even scheme was to benefit the people, there was a need for a better public transport facility. “All the authorities have opined that major cause to air pollution was vehicles. So the Delhi government should make an effort on war-footing to bring in more buses,” it said, adding that “public life has to be protected as Delhi was unable to breathe”.
“Entire city was unable to breathe. Look at your concern in area of education and health facility. We want the same for the public transport,” it said, adding that “every citizen is suffering”. The bench also said that stubble burning in the states of Punjab and Haryana alone cannot be blamed for the poor air quality in the national capital if the Delhi government was not willing to take steps to augment public transport. The court made the observation during the hearing of a PIL by a person suffering from locomotor disability challenging the Delhi government’s move to procure 2,000 standard floor buses at a cost of Rs300 crore.
The court declined to stay the proposed procurement and observed that if the government needed buses, let it go ahead with this. “Look at the plight of Delhi. People cannot breathe. There is smog even in the corridors of the high court. There is a grave urgency for more buses for the capital roads. Let them go ahead and purchase,” it said. Emphasizing on the need to improve public transport, the high court also roped in Delhi Metro and Northern Railway in the PIL and sought their responses on improving and increasing their facilities for the people including disabled persons.
The bench also sought the presence of environmentalist Sunita Narain on 23 November to assist it in the matter. The petitioner, Nipun Malhotra, has contended that the standard floor buses have higher steps and were not equipped for wheelchair access and thus, would “directly and substantially affect” about 2.34 lakh disabled persons in the national capital.
The plea has contended that the government has displayed “insensitivity” towards disabled persons as they were not consulted prior to taking a decision to procure the buses. It sought a stay on the procurement of the standard floor buses and directions to the Delhi government to carry out a feasibility study by involving persons from disabled community. It has also sought directions to the Delhi government to provide the rationale behind procurement of the “non-disabled friendly buses”.