In response to the escalating air pollution crisis in Mumbai, the Bombay High Court, after initiating a suo motu case, has imposed a series of interim measures to alleviate pollution in the city and its metropolitan region, including Thane and Navi Mumbai, leading up to the Diwali festival. The court’s decision comes as Diwali approaches on November 12, with celebrations typically commencing a week prior.
A specially convened bench, consisting of Chief Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyay and Justice Girish Kulkarni, has taken these steps to address the pressing issue of air quality. The Chief Justice stressed the need for significant actions to enhance air quality and prevent further deterioration, stating, “There is general consensus that something drastic needs to be done for improving air quality in Mumbai and also to check that it doesn’t worsen.”
The court has temporarily restricted the transportation of construction debris to and from construction sites in an effort to curb pollution. Additionally, it has placed personal liability on the Assistant Municipal Commissioners (AMCs) of each Mumbai civic ward for any lapses in implementing air pollution mitigation guidelines issued in October and March.
For the upcoming Diwali festivities, the Bombay High Court has decided not to ban firecrackers but has set a time frame for their use, allowing them to be lit only between 7 pm and 10 pm.
To oversee the implementation of pollution-mitigating guidelines and offer recommendations to civic bodies in Mumbai and the metropolitan region, a two-member panel comprising NEERI and the principal secretary of Public Health in Maharashtra has been established. The panel will receive daily updates from all civic chiefs in Mumbai and the metropolitan region, and these authorities are required to submit an affidavit by Friday detailing the steps taken to adhere to the court’s directives.
In this suo motu public interest litigation (PIL), which was initiated by the Bombay High Court itself, the court also considered two additional PILs filed by concerned residents. To provide legal expertise on the matter, senior counsel and former additional solicitor general Darius Khambata was appointed as amicus curiae. The court emphasized that this case is not to be treated as adversarial litigation, concurring with the Advocate General’s stance.