THE NATIONAL Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday 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 NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed the German global auto giant to deposit the amount within two months.
A Volkswagen Group India spokesperson said the company would challenge the order in the Supreme Court.
“The Volkswagen Group in India reiterates that all cars from the Group are compliant with the emission norms defined in India,” said the spokesperson.
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 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.
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.
The report was filed on orders passed by the NGT on November 16, 2018, when it had directed Volkswagen to deposit Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as “an interim measure”.
While passing the order, the NGT had observed that the “polluter pays principle has been accepted as part of the law of the land” and since “serious damage has been caused to the environment”, this principle “needs to be invoked to compensate the damage” caused.
“Remediation of the damaged environment is part of the process of sustainable development and, as such, polluter is liable to pay the cost to the individual sufferers as well as the cost of reversing the damaged ecology,” the NGT had said.
The NGT had passed the order on a plea filed by Advocate Sanjeev Ailawadi after ‘Dieselgate’.
The Rs 500 crore fine is the latest blow to Volkswagen, which is facing both criminal and civil penalties for installing illegal software to cheat strict US pollution norms. In the US and Canada, where proceedings are pending, the company has agreed to pay $2.8 billion to an environmental trust. The NGT, in its order, had said: “It also pleaded guilty to three federal criminal felony counts and paid USD 2.8 billion criminal penalty.”
In India, the expert panel constituted by the NGT said that “only human health damages are being considered for estimation”. Referring to the Rs 171.34 crore fine, the panel had said that “this value may be considered as conservative due to lack of methodologies for calculating the overall impact of NOx on the environment in India and hence only health damages are valued”.