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The central government informed the Supreme Court on Monday that the government shall soon propose a new legislation creating a permanent body to tackle the annual menace of air pollution in Delhi and adjoining areas as a result of stubble burning.

The apex court taking a note of this submission altered its order passed on 16 October and suspended the one-man committee of former justice Madan Lokur. The court had earlier appointed justice Lokur to monitor the measures taken by the states to prevent stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and the National Capital Region.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, apprised the court that the government has taken a holistic view of the issue of air pollution related to stubble burning and has also taken several ad hoc steps to mitigate the problem.

While informing the court that the Centre is considering to propose a legislation within next few days to tackle the problem, Mehta sought a stay on the 16 October order. He added that a draft of the proposed law on tackling the pollution issue shall be placed before the court within next four days.

Opposing the plea, senior advocate Vikas Singh, representing petitioner, contended that the legislation will only come by next year and the air pollution problem needs immediate action.

Mehta responded, "This government acts fast and the problem must be curbed on war footing."

Welcoming the submission made by the solicitor general, Chief Justice S.A. Bobde remarked, “Welcome step, this is something that government should have acted on. This is not a matter for PIL... The only issue is that people are choking because of pollution and it is something which must be curbed."

The amicus curiae (friend of court) senior advocate Harish Salve also supported the proposal of the government.

The order was passed by the bench comprising justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian while hearing a PIL filed by two young environmental activities seeking directions to ensure the implementation of the complete ban on stubble burning.

The past few days have seen Delhi’s air quality worsen as farmers in neighbouring states burn crop stubble to clear fields ahead of the winter sowing season.

As many as 2,873 incidents of stubble burning were reported between 21 September and 12 October, up from 755 a year ago.

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