The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Delhi government on a plea to levy higher tax on car owners and making diesel-run cars more expensive.
The plea, moved by amicus curiae and senior advocate Harish Salve, was filed in the wake of a rise in the air pollution in the national capital.
Besides the Delhi government, Green bench led by Justice A K Patnaik also issued notices to the Centre and the governments of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, and sought their replies within three weeks.
The application had pointed to the alarming rise in Delhi’s air pollution, affecting the people’s health, besides causing premature death of 3,000 children annually.
Salve adduced in the court the findings recorded in the latest report of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) for the National Capital Region.
The report pointed out that Delhi was able to arrest and lower air pollution with introduction of the CNG, but could not sustain these gains as air pollution levels were rising again due to growing number of vehicles.
“Since 2007, particulate levels have increased dramatically by 75 per cent. During the same decade (2002 to 2012), vehicle numbers have increased by as much as 97 per cent, contributing enormously to pollution load and direct exposure to toxic fume. Studies show that about 55 per cent of Delhi’s 17 million people who live within 500 metres from any road side are directly exposed to toxic vehicular fume,” it said.
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It also contended that the high CNG prices had hurt public transport and undermined the programme for clean fuel as over time, the price gap between CNG and diesel fuels had narrowed considerably. The gap between CNG and diesel has increased from 7.35 per cent to 35 per cent this month only after the most recent intervention to reduce CNG prices by Rs 15 per kg.
Salve has sought a direction for higher taxes on car owners and a time-bound action plan for augmentation of public transport services and necessary action to remove entry taxes on public transport buses across borders.
He referred to a 2010 study by Health Effect Institute, Boston, estimating at least 3,000 premature deaths annually due to air pollution related diseases here.