The Centre on Friday moved the Supreme Court challenging the National Green Tribunal’s decision to deregister diesel vehicles that are older than 10 years and scrapping of such vehicles which are 15 years old, reports Indu Bhan in New Delhi.
It said that impact of the ban, which was imposed to curb air pollution in the National Capital Region, would be far-reaching and would effectively cripple the automobile industry, the largest constituent of the manufacturing sector and the fifth largest sector receiving foreign direct investment in the country.
A bench led by justice MB Lokur asked attorney general Mukul Rohatgi to submit the status of a similar petition that was dismissed by the court last year. It said the government can’t have a “casual approach” in not apprising the court about dismissal of similar appeals.
Seeking stay on the NGT’s orders of July 18 and 20 last year, the government said that there is no point targeting the automobile sector.
The sector, it said, not only contributes 47% of the manufacturing GDP of the country but also employs over 30 million people and has a cumulative investment of Rs 1,42,000 crore and production of Rs 5,56,555 crore.
After the launch of the ‘Make in India’ campaign, investment of around $5094 million has come into the country as equity inflows which is almost 8% of the total FDI equity inflow, it said, adding that the automobile industry also contributes about 18% of the total excise duty collections in the country.
The ministry also said that number of measures have been taken to address the rising pollution levels like the new models of four-wheelers manufactured from April 2020 will mandatorily meet the BS VI (Euro VI equivalent) emission norms. This will need more than Rs 36,000 crore of investment by oil companies and Rs 1 lakh crore of investment by the auto industry, it said.
Besides, the government is already contemplating and finalising various policies including a ‘scrapping policy’ for which it is now inviting suggestions as per the mandate of law.
Stating that NGT’s orders “are arbitrary and falls foul of the mandate of Article 14 of the Constitution and various statutes governing motor vehicles and other laws”, the ministry of heavy industries said that there is no scientific or rational basis for the impugned orders banning diesel vehicles. “On the contrary, various credible reports show that there is only a marginal contribution of 10-years-plus diesel vehicles. Statutory law and pollution under control (PUC) prescribe for fitness regime for vehicles and not based on age,” the appeal stated.
The impugned orders failed to consider that scientific literature does not show that diesel is worse off fuel than other fuels, it said, adding that it contributes minuscule proportion of pollution in NCR. On the contrary, diesel vehicles have higher fuel efficiency, therefore, would save over 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 emission a year, the petition stated.
Citing examples of Japan and European countries, which are actively promoting diesel vehicles for being less polluting, it said that “singling out diesel fuel for discriminatory treatment is arbitrary and unreasonable”. Besides, cutting short the economic utility of a legally permitted vehicle, the NGT order causes both national loss and personal loss of livelihood and freedom of choice to the vehicle owner, it added.
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According to the government, there is no statutory basis or provision for deregistration of diesel vehicles and the existing provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, provide for cancellation of registration only after ingredients specified are fulfilled and that too after hearing each vehicle owner whose vehicle is deemed unfit.
As of 2014, Delhi had 8.9 million registered passenger vehicles. Of these, there are around 220,000 diesel passenger vehicles and 170,000 commercial vehicles that are over 10 years old, according to industry estimates.