In a relief to German car manufacturer Volkswagen, the Supreme Court Monday agreed to hear its plea against National Green Tribunal’s Rs 500 crore penalty and put on stay any “coercive steps” against the company till the hearing is completed. The NGT in March had ordered Volkswagen to pay a fine of Rs 500 crore for causing damage to the environment by programming its diesel engines with cheat devices.
A bench headed by Justice S A Bobde stayed the imposition of fine for the time being against the multinational automobile company.
While directing Volkswagen to pay the fine within two months, NGT on March 7 had said that the funds will be utilised towards improving air quality in the NCR of Delhi and other highly polluted areas. The NGT panel was formed in November last year in the wake of the 2015 global emission scandal or ‘Dieselgate’ when the company was found guilty of intentionally programming its diesel engines with cheat devices to meet US regulatory standards but actually emit up to 40 times more Nitrous Oxides (NOx) in real-world conditions.
Stating that the NGT order is “arbitrary and unreasonable”, Volkswagen said the fine was imposed even when an NGT-appointed committee (CPCB) report found that vehicles of the Volkswagen Group companies are in compliance with regulatory environmental norms in India. “The NGT has imposed a penalty of Rs 500 crore upon the Volkswagen Group companies, without determining any provision of law that has been violated,” it said in its appeal to the apex court.
As first reported by The Indian Express in January, the four-member expert panel constituted by the NGT had recommended that Volkswagen should be made to pay at least Rs 171.34 crore as a “conservative” fine for damage to health in India.
The panel, which used Delhi as the base city to calculate the damages, estimated that Volkswagen cars released approximately 48.678 tonnes of NOx in 2016. The penalty was determined on the basis of the 3.27 lakh Volkswagen cars that had deceit software installed in India.
On January 17 this year, the NGT had slammed VW for not depositing Rs 100 crore, imposed on it for damaging the environment and directed it to submit the amount within 24 hours failing which its directors would be sent to jail.