New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday reserved its order on pleas for lifting its ban on registration of diesel cars with engine capacity of 2,000 cc and above in the NCR even as the central government argued for it and opposed imposition of any environment cess.
Seeking the modification of the apex court’s December 16, 2015 order, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi urged the bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice A.K.Sikri and Justice R. Banumathi that “no cess should be levied by the court at this stage” and offered to come back with a report on the issue after undertaking a multi-pronged study.
At this, the bench said: “You tell us this is the course, we will look at it.”
The apex court by its December 16, 2015 order had prohibited the registration of diesel vehicles of engine capacity of 2,000 cc and above in the entire National Capital Region as one of the steps to deal with ever-rising pollution in the national capital. Besides this, it had imposed Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) on commercial vehicles entering Delhi.
Seeking six weeks time to submit the report, Rohatgi said: “I don’t think it is appropriate for the court to impose a tax as it should be done under the scheme of the constitution.”
The central government’s stand came in course of the hearing of a batch of petitions by car manufacturers including Mercedes Benz and Toyota seeking lifting of the ban on registration of big cars with an offer that it will deposit one per cent of such as car’s cost as environment cess.
However, senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam appearing for Mercedes Benz said that notwithstanding the position taken by the central government, they stand by their commitment to pay one per cent cess on the every vehicle sold by them.
Referring to the figures about the emission by different range of diesel cars, the Attorney General defended high range diesel cars saying that “diesel is not an undesirable fuel”.
Noting that even petrol and CNG too were contributing carbon monoxide and nitrogen respectively to the air pollution, he also referred to the investments that these big car makers bring to the country.
Giving details of the steps being contemplated by the government to phase out old cars as one of the steps to address the problem of alarming increase in the pollution, Rohatgi told the court 10 to 15-year-old cars would be junked after paying the price of scrap to the owner.
Telling the court that one per cent cess was just nothing for the owner of car running on diesel as later was Rs 10-15 cheaper than the petrol, amicus curiae Aparajita Singh urged the court to impose a charge of 20 per cent as it would take care of the cheaper diesel being used by them.
She said that the charge of 20 percent should be across the board but in case of diesel vehicles of engine capacity of 2000 CC and above it should be 24 per cent.
Justifying the levying of such a charge, Singh invoked the principle of generational equity. She said that environment is a matter of public trust and every third child is suffering some kind of lung infection. The court was told that 20 per cent being suggested did not factor in health cost.
Disputing that diesel-fuelled cars could alone be singled out as real villains contributing to air pollution, Subramaniam said that if such a course has to be charted out. then it should be on basis of equitable principles and it should be for all car manufacturers.