Automobile giants like Mercedes, Toyota, Mahindra and General Motors today failed to get any relief from the Supreme Court, which extended till April 30 the bar on registration of diesel-run SUVs and high-end cars with engine capacity of 2000 CC and above in the National Capital Region.
“The interim order banning registration of diesel-run vehicles with engine capacity of 2000 CC and above will continue till April 30,” the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said.
The bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi, however extended by one more month the deadline, which was ending today, for converting all diesel-run taxis into CNG in the national capital.
While extending deadline for converting diesel-run taxis into CNG and continuing with the status quo on registration of diesel-run vehicles, the bench asked the reputed car makers not to treat the PIL as an “adversarial litigation” and “treat it in public interest”.
It asked them to sit together and come out with the “propositions” so that some solutions could be arrived at by holding a full-fledged hearing on Saturdays, a non-working day for the apex court, to save some “judicial time”.
When a counsel sought some relief on the registration of trucks in Delhi and NCR, the bench got irked and said, “no trucks will be registered as the city is already choked”.
It rather went further and observed: “Heavens will not fall, if trucks are not registered.”
“Rather, there is congestion on the roads due to trucks and why not impose congestion charge on them,” it said, adding there was no space for their parking too.
While continuing with the ban on registration of diesel-run vehicles of 2000 CC and above, the bench said, “We are conscious of the fact that the order is going to affect the companies, market and economy.”
When the arguments were made by senior advocates like Gopal Subramaniam, C A Sundaram, P Chidambaram and others on behalf of automobile majors, the bench said, “you have two choices, first to continue with the ban for six months or secondly, we impose the compensation charge on purchasers of diesel vehicles.”
The bench also said “People who buy diesel cars knowing they pollute more should be ready to pay compensatory charges.”
“What should be the level of charge, you (car makers) have to tell us and we will allow the registration and you will start selling your cars,” it said.
“Buyers must pay pollution charge. People who buy high- end cars must pay compensation charges,” the bench said and proposed that 10 per cent of cost of diesel-run vehicles may be levied as one-time compensatory charge.
When Subramaniam, appearing for Mercedes Benz, was trying to stress that diesel vehicles are not the only ones responsible for pollution, the court said it cannot “revisit” the issue decided by it again and again as it had ordered conversion of diesel-run buses into CNG long back.
“This court said all diesel vehicles be converted to CNG. The basis for it was that diesel is more polluting,” the bench said while stopping him from making the submission that the Bhure Lal committee suggested conversion to CNG on the basis of the nature of the various kinds of pollutants.
“Fuel is also a major kind of pollutant. So do not go into this aspect that diesel is not a pollutant. Then why did we go for CNG in public transport,” it said, adding “it is not under medical advice that people go for diesel vehicles. You tell us what is the reason.”
When Subramaniam said that fuel efficiency is one of the factors, the bench said, “persons in Delhi on Mercedes and BMW is not bothered about fuel efficiency. Look at the class of people plying on these vehicles…It is the super rich class. So why should we allow them to make our life miserable”.
At the outset, advocate Aprajita Singh, assisting the court as Amicus Curiae, said while buses and taxis have been turned into CNG by the apex court order, diesel-run private vehicles continue to pollute.
Responding to various queries of the court, she said the apex court’s interim order had a “positive result” despite the fact that weather has been adverse this winter which also saw less rains.
When asked about the order on diverting trucks out of Delhi, she said since the directions in January, there have been diversion of over four lakhs trucks from 13 check posts of Haryana and more than 2,500 trucks from Uttar Pradesh have been denied entry to Delhi.
( Source – PTI )