BANNING ALL diesel and petrol-run taxis in the National Capital Region (NCR), the Supreme Court on Saturday held that only CNG-fitted private taxis, including those being operated by aggregators like Ola and Uber, will be allowed to ply from Sunday.
Holding a special hearing, a bench led by Chief Justice T S Thakur declined to extend the April 30 deadline fixed for conversion of all diesel and petrol-run taxis to CNG mode.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for some taxi owners, contended that there is no technology for converting diesel vehicles into CNG mode. “We will not be able to earn our livelihood. Moreover, we have to repay the bank loans taken to buy these taxis too,” he said.
But the bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi, turned down the plea for extension of deadline, pointing out that it had already been extended three times since last year.
On December 16 last year, the deadline for conversion to CNG mode was set as March 1. It was later extended to March 31, and then to April 30. “We are not going to extend the deadline any further,” said the bench today.
In its December 16 order, the court had observed that the move “will contribute substantially to reduction of pollution.”
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The bench today also extended its ban on fresh registrations of diesel vehicles with engine capacity of 2000 cc and above in the NCR till further orders. It said the issues relating to the continuing ban on registration as well as imposing environment cess on new diesel vehicles would be taken up on May 9.
The court, however, allowed Delhi Police and Delhi Jal Board to register their new diesel-run vehicles of 2000 cc and above for transportation of undertrial prisoners, arms and ammunition and supply of water. It asked Delhi Police to pay 30 per cent of the cost of the vehicle as Environment Compensation Charge (ECC). The Delhi Jal Board was exempted from the green cess on the ground that it ferries water tankers to people.
During the hearing, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing automobile manufactures, read out a report prepared by IIT-Kanpur that said diesel cars accounted for 0.3 per cent of Delhi’s air pollution. He said there were various other factors such as dust and industrial pollutants which contributed to the pollution.
“Why no difference is made in pollution level in Delhi, even after steps have been taken like odd-even scheme, diversion of trucks from the national capital? What are the solutions? More than 60,000 trucks have been barred everyday from entering Delhi, yet the study suggests no improvement in air quality,” observed the bench.
It also pulled up the Centre for “waiting for someone to wake it up from deep slumber” when the latter agreed to examine a proposal to install a device, catalytic converter, in vehicles to reduce pollution in emission.
“Now you have woken up from deep slumber. What was the ministry doing all these days? You wait for someone to bring out something. This is a matter affecting everybody. You should examine the position in the rest of the world. What are your officials doing? Are they sitting in their plush office and sipping coffee? The ministry should do it,” the bench told Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh.