(Photo by Money SHARMA / AFP)
(Photo by Money SHARMA / AFP)

New Delhi: “I durst not laugh, for fear of opening my lips and receiving the bad air”, as William Shakespeare would have it. A sentiment practically echoed by Justice Arun Mishra of the Supreme Court. Except, in all solemnity, the judge not meant just laugh, but also live, specifically, in New Delhi.

“In the morning and evening, there is so much pollution and traffic congestion. It is better not to be in Delhi. I do not wish to settle in Delhi. It is difficult to live in Delhi,” Justice Arun Mishra said. He made this observation in the capital on Friday, as he was hearing a matter related to air pollution in the National Capital Region. Travelling across the city was fraught with the twin perils of dense fog and the rehearsal for the Republic Day parade and the resultant traffic snarl almost caused Justice Mishra to miss the swearing-in ceremony for two new judges.

Thursday was the second-worst air quality day this year in Delhi, with the air quality index (AQI) at 440, caused by low temperature and slow wind speeds at the surface which did not help the dispersal of suspended pollutants. Officials said the air was expected to remain in the “severe” category(AQI above 400), till Saturday. Thick smog has been hanging over Delhi, home to 20 million people, since October 2018.

The court asked the Delhi police what action they have taken to remove unclaimed vehicles – that are no longer required in legal cases – from police stations. It also asked the Delhi government why it had not appointed district ‘nazir’ (record-keeper). “If you can dispose of the junk vehicles, you will get several acres of land,” the bench said. The court posted the matter for further hearing on February 1.

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