As the winters have started creeping in the North India, the declining mercury has led to an inversely proportional surge in a deadly mix of smoke and fog, also commonly known as ‘smog’, especially in the capital city of Delhi. In view of this alarming environmental crisis, the Ministry of Law and Justice on October 28, 2020 has issued an Ordinance namely the Commission for the Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020. The Ordinance has been promulgated by the President of India and provides for the establishment of Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas for better co-ordination, research, identification and resolution of problems surrounding the air quality index.
The Ordinance shall apply to Delhi NCR and adjoining states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh where the sources of air pollution are located and are directly or indirectly causing adverse impact on air quality in the NCR.
Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas
The powers and functions of the Commission inter alia includes the following:
- The Commission has been conferred with the power to lay down air quality parameters, discharge of environmental pollutants parameters, to inspect premises violating the law, order closure of non-abiding industries or plants, etc.
- The Commission can also restrict any industry, operations or processes or class of industries that can have implications on air quality in the said region.
- The Commission shall have the power to take mitigation measures, issue directions/orders suo moto and entertain complaints under any other existing laws such as the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- The Ordinance states that the Orders of the Commission shall prevail in case there is a conflict between the Central Pollution Control Board and the State Pollution Control Boards.
Penalties and Offences
Non-compliance of the provisions of the Ordinance– The Ordinance provides penalty of imprisonment for term that may extend to 5 years or fine extending upto INR 1 Crore or with both for non-compliance of the provisions of the Ordinance.
Offence committed by Company– For offence committed by any Company, the Ordinance provides that every person who at the time of offence was directly in charge for or responsible for the conduct of the business of the company, will be held guilty for offence under the Ordinance.
Any appeal from the Order of the Commission would lie before the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
Delhi NCR every year witnesses alarmingly poor quality of air from October onwards. The promulgation of Ordinance to mitigate the issue of air pollution and quality is a welcome step. However, its implementation in true letter and spirit is yet awaited.