New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that every effort by courts to curb use of high-polluting fuel is always met with a hue and cry coupled with the threat of defying the order as it gave partial relief to the Manali-Rohtang tourist taxi operators from the NGT order.
“Initially when such steps (to curb pollution) are taken, there is always a hue and cry,” said the vacation bench of Justices A.K.Sikri and Uday Umesh Lalit as the court spared the Manali-Rohtang tourist taxi operators from complying with Bharat Stage IV emission standards and suspended the National Green Tribunal directions in this regard.
“I was in high court then. (Then Delhi) chief minister said I will disobey (the court order replacing diesel with CNG) and go to jail. Same hue and cry was there when CNG was introduced in Delhi,” said Justice Sikri brushing aside the contention by Him Aanchal Tourist Taxi Operators Union which said the NGT order was creating a chaotic situation resulting in locals protesting at the office of the district commissioner.
The court’s observations came as senior counsel Vibha Datta Makhija, appearing for the taxi operators, tried to impress upon the court that the NGT’s May 5 directions had created a serious problems, both in terms of restricting the plying to only 1,000 tourist vehicles and levying environmental compensation charges of Rs.1,000 for petrol vehicles and Rs.2,500 for diesel vehicles per trip.
The NGT, by its May 5 order, had said only 1,000 tourist vehicles – 600 petrol and 400 diesel – would ply on the Manali-Rohtang pass stretch and they would be subject to BS-IV standards of emission. The green tribunal further directed that any vehicle carrying more than six passengers would pay a further environmental compensation of Rs.5,000.
Meanwhile, the tourist taxi operators on Tuesday got the backing of the Himachal Pradesh government which told the court that it too was seeking the modification of the green tribunal’s May 5 order.
Lawyer Surya Narayan Singh, appearing for the hill state, told the court that “the state is also preferring an appeal against the said (May 5) order on all the counts including cap of 1000 vehicles and levying of environmental compensation charge”.
While staying the direction to comply with BS IV emission standards, the apex court on Tuesday asked the tourist taxi operators to go to the NGT for the modification of its other May 5 directions.
It gave Him Aanchal Tourist Taxi Operators Union a week’s time to approach the NGT which in turn would hold an early hearing.
While permitting the tourist taxi operators to approach the NGT, the court declined to disturb any of the other directions including the environmental compensation charge, and cap on number of vehicles.