'Small diesel car buyers to pay one-time pollution tax'
The Supreme Court on Wednesday banned registration of diesel-guzzling high-end luxury cars and SUVs with engine capacity of 2,000cc and more in the entire National Capital Region (NCR) till March 31 and said it would impose a one-time pollution tax on small diesel cars in the new year.
Taking firm control of the judicial intervention to tackle the alarming situation arising from abysmal air quality in Delhi and NCR, a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi said no other forum, including the National Green Tribunal (NGT), would deal with the issues on which the court passed order.
However, the court exempted light commercial vehicles. "We are of the view that the new commercial light duty diesel vehicles can for the present continue being registered in Delhi on account of the dependence of the public on such vehicles for supply of essentials," it said.
"There is, however, no reason why registration of private cars and SUVs using diesel with an engine capacity of 2,000cc and above should not be banned up to March 31, 2016. Diesel vehicles of 2,000cc and above and SUVs are generally used by more affluent sections of our society and, because of the higher engine capacity, are more prone to cause higher levels of pollution. A ban on registration of such vehicles will not affect the common man or the average citizen of Delhi," it said.
Toyota Motors sought exemption for its popular Innova model from the rigour of the ban saying it was a "people's car". But the bench declined the request on learning that it had an engine capacity of more than 2,000cc. This means high-end luxury sedans and SUVs running on diesel would not be registered in Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Noida and other smaller cities falling within the NCR till March 31.
The court fixed January 5 for hearing parties, including amicus curiae Harish Salve, to fix the quantum of pollution tax to be levied on diesel cars with engine capacity of less than 2,000cc.
The bench also banned entry of all trucks into Delhi which till now used the Capital as a transit route for reaching destinations in other states by ordering authorities to block their entry at two major points - Kundli border on NH-1 and Rajokri on NH-8.
It allowed entry of trucks carrying goods for Delhi with a rider - these should not be more than 10 years old. Those which fulfill this condition would be allowed entry into Delhi on payment of environmental compensation cess of Rs 1,400 (for light commercial vehicles) and Rs 2,600 (for big trucks), which is double the ECC imposed by the SC on October 9.
Trucks carrying food articles, vegetables and essential commodities for Delhi would be exempt from ECC but these must not be more than 10 years old. Nearly 40,000 trucks enter Delhi daily and the two major entry points account for 70% of the total.
"We accordingly direct that (truck) traffic from these two entry points shall be diverted to bypass Delhi through such alternative routes as the transport/traffic departments of the governments concerned may stipulate," the bench said. The orders will come into effect immediately as the SC did not fix any date for implementation of its order.
In another major step, the CJI-headed bench brought the construction industry and real estate developers under the scanner. It asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and state pollution control boards to rigorously implement measures to check pollution at construction sites.
The court also asked cab aggregators like Ola and Uber to convert their entire fleet into CNG mode latest by March 1. It also asked the Delhi government and all civic agencies in Delhi to prohibit burning of waste. It ordered the Delhi government to procure vacuum cleaning vehicles latest by April 1 to keep Delhi roads dust free.