‘Amusing that a state has filed PIL against Centre’: SC refuses to entertain Delhi govt’s plea seeking closure of power plants

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain a plea filed by the Delhi government against the Centre seeking closure of 10 power plants in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, contributing to air pollution of the national capital.

A Bench Justices Navin Sinha and Justice RS Reddy refused to entertain the public interest litigation (PIL) of the Delhi government and asked its counsel to withdraw the plea. According to a report by NDTV, the bench of Justice Navin Sinha and Justice R. Subhash Reddy said, “We find it amusing that a state has come in with a PIL against the Centre.”

“If the Centre has said something or done something contrary, then you (Delhi government) can go and inform the court about what the Centre has done. You can file a case,” the court said, while referring to Delhi’s PIL against an April 1, 2021, notification from the Union ministry, reported NDTV.

On April 1, the Union Environment Ministry had issued a notification with amended rules allowing thermal power plants within 10 kilometers of the National Capital Region (NCR) and in cities with more than 10 lakh population to comply with new emission norms by the end of 2022.

It had revised emission norms for particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen for TPPs in December 2015, requiring them to install emission control systems by December 2017.

The PIL filed by the Delhi government sought a direction to Centre to install Fuel Gas Desulphurisation (FGD) device in 10 thermal power plants in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh as in absence of the device, the power plants contribute majorly to pollute the air in the national capital.

The plea also sought quashing of an order passed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to these thermal power plants, extending the deadline for installation of FGD.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves appearing for the Delhi government told the Bench that power plants contribute 80 per cent of sulphates, etc and control of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide has to be there. “These are the killer gases,” he added.

Gonsalves stated that according to the IIT Kanpur report, Delhi’s pollution levels are high. He further said that it was stated by the CPCB in its report that the FGD be installed by 2019.

To this, Justice Navin Sinha replied that now the deadline is the year 2022.

Gonsalves contended that pollution is becoming worse and the deadline should be closer.

“We understood your case. The state has come under a PIL against the Government of India,” the Bench observed.

Gonsalves replied that the State government has approached the top court because it is affected by the power plants.

The Bench told Gonsalves that the Delhi government’s case is that the Centre made a statement before the court and now they are deviating. It said the Delhi government can intervene in the same case where the Centre reportedly gave an undertaking that it will install FGDs. Thereafter, Gonsalves appearing for the Delhi government withdrew the PIL from the court.