Stepping into the raging debate on pollution, the Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to examine a suggestion to ban entry of all diesel-run trucks, except those carrying essential goods, into the national capital while asking the Centre to come up with “common minimum acceptable programmes” on the issue after consulting all stakeholders.
The apex court also observed that it was “very embarrassing” when visiting foreign dignitaries speak about the high pollution level.
Coming out in support of Delhi Government’s “odd and even number policy”, allowing private cars to run on alternate days from January one, a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and R Banumathi said it was an “emergency measure”.
Terming the rising pollution level in Delhi as “very serious”, the bench advocated a “multi-pronged” approach to deal with the situation.
The intolerable limit of pollution is earning a “bad name” to Delhi as “the most polluted city in the world”, it said.
“It is very embarrassing for us when foreign dignitaries visiting Delhi speak about the capital’s high pollution level,” it said and gave example of a visiting judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) referring to the issue.
“This is very serious issue and we are earning a bad name in the world for Delhi being most polluted city,” it said and agreed to examine the suggestion of senior advocate Harish Salve that as an interim measure, the entry of all kinds of diesel-run trucks into Delhi be banned for six weeks to see as to whether it makes “perceptible” change in the already worsened air quality.
Salve, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae in a 1984 PIL filed by environmentalist M C Mehta on the issue, said trucks, except those carrying essential goods into Delhi, can be banned in pursuance of the 2001 order of the apex court.
“We will be happy if you (Centre) can provide platform to all stakeholders to prevent the problem and come out with common minimum acceptable programes…
“There cannot be a single solution to this problem, there has to be multi-pronged approach and suggestions to defuse pollution crisis. The odd and even number policy is only as an emergency measure,” the bench said and sought views of all stakeholders, including the Centre, Delhi government, MCD and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
It asked the stakeholders to prepare a common minimum acceptable plan to address the issue of pollution and said that the absence of proper plan now getting reflected.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for one of the three civic bodies, besides the diesel-run cars and trucks, building construction and burning of wastes pollute.
During the hearing, the bench said trucks, whose final destination is not Delhi, may not be allowed to ply on capital roads even after paying the Environment Compensation Charge (ECC).
Delhi is earning bad name, there must be a plan in place to let the world know that we were doing something about pollution, it said.
Meanwhile, the bench, asked SMYR Consortium LLP, which has been levying toll on behalf of MCD from commercial vehicles entering Delhi, to avail other remedies to challenge the decision of MCD to encash bank guarantees allegedly due to drop in cess collection.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the toll collector, said that due to imposition of court-mandated ‘Environment Compensation Charge’ (ECC) on commercial vehicles entering Delhi, the number of such vehicles have gone down by 30 per cent and has led to drop in civic cess collection.
The apex court had on October 12 said that light duty vehicles would pay Rs 700 and three-axle vehicles Rs 1,300 as ‘Environment Compensation Charge’ from November 1, in addition to the toll tax, for entering Delhi.
The apex court’s order, which will remain in force for four months on a trial basis, directed the Delhi Government to issue appropriate notification in this regard.
It had made it clear that these charges would be operative for four months from November 1 till February 29, 2016 on an “experimental basis”.
Taking note of the Centre for Science and Environment’s study that about 23 per cent of the commercial vehicles and 40-60 per cent of the heavy trucks entering the city were not destined for Delhi, the court had said it was necessary to impose the charges, along with the MCD toll, to equalize the difference in cost in travelling through alternative routes.