New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday indicated that it may double the Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) on commercial vehicles using the national capital as transit for their onward journey to other destinations to curb the capital's alarming pollution levels.
A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur, Justice AK Sikri and Justice R Banumathi said that it would double the ECC at the conclusion of nearly three-hour-long hearing on the steps that can be taken to reduce the air pollution in Delhi which has assumed alarming proportions. The order will be passed on Wednesday.
The apex court had on October 9 imposed an ECC of Rs 700 on light vehicles and two-axle trucks and Rs 1,300 on three and four-axle trucks entering the national capital in the course of their onward journey. If the court, as it indicated on Tuesday doubles the charge, then light vehicles and two-axle trucks would be paying Rs 1,400 and three- and four-axle trucks Rs 2,600 for passing through the capital.
The court's order on Wednesday is likely to deal with suggestion to ban registration of vehicles with engine capacity of over 2,000 cc, banning entry of commercial vehicles registered prior to 2005, plying of CNG cabs only, ban on the burning of waste including municipal waste, steps to control the dust level in the city and the introduction of BS IV emission norms.
The suggested ban on the registration of vehicles with engine capacity of over 2000 cc would be for four months starting from January till April.
Pointing out that BS IV emission standards were not available across the country, senior counsel Harish Salve, who is amicus curiae in the matter, told the court that the "Euro IV fuel was not available" and cars conforming to euro IV emission standards "can be (for the time being) permitted on national highways".
As court inquired about the euro VI emission standards, Salve told the court that central government's position is that it could not be introduced before 2020 as it would involve the revamp of refineries to produce fuel that was euro VI compatible.
The court said that it would "dictate the orders tomorrow (on Wednesday)" as Salve told the court that the question fate of the Badarpur and Rajghat thermal power plant could be taken up in January 2016.
As the court's attention was drawn towards the adulteration of fuel with kerosene, Chief Justice Thakur said, "Our cars are so versatile that nothing happens to them."
Seeking a clampdown on diesel vehicles, Salve said, "Blame must lie on diesel vehicles as 30 percent of vehicles in Delhi are fuelled by diesel."
However, senior counsel Dushyant Dave resisted the move, saying that diesel vehicles formed a small part of the overall number of vehicles in Delhi and they could not be targeted.
However, the court said that the number of diesel vehicles was large and they were polluting the city. "It is a very large number. They are polluting the city", observed the bench disagreeing with Dave.
Finding that court was not in agreement, Dave said: "We want to co-operate. It (curbs) would have a serious chain reactions. There are thousands of workers and huge investments." He described it as an "impractical solution".
Salve noted that one diesel car was equal to eight petrol cars.
As a lawyer representing the car dealers sought to oppose the plea for banning the sale of luxury cars even for a short duration, Chief Justice Thakur said, "They are businessmen. They want to make money. The lives of the people are at stake."