In what may almost spell doom for automobile players who manufacture diesel-run sports utility vehicle and cars with an engine capacity of more than 2000 cc, the Supreme Court on Tuesday indicated that it will ban their sale in the national capital as an interim measure for three to four months to check pollution. The apex court also observed that it might hike the green cess, the environment compensation charge (ECC), by 100% on trucks entering Delhi, while banning ones that are more than 10 years old. Allowing only CNG cabs to run, banning burning of municipal waste, and introduction of Euro IV emission norms are some of the other measures indicated by it.
The court will pass its final order on the matter on Wednesday.
The development comes after last week’s interim ban by the national green tribunal (NGT) on the sale of new diesel vehicles and as well re-registration of more than 10-year-old vehicles running on the fuel till the next date of hearing, January 6. It also directed the central and state governments not to buy any diesel vehicles for their use. On Tuesday, while auto dealers petitioned the NGT for a modification of its order calling it harsh as dealers need to clear their stock before the end of the year, the tribunal while admitting their plea said that it will await the SC’s order on the matter.
Any ban on the sale of diesel-run SUVs of engine capacity over 2000 cc will have a big impact on the country’s largest utility manufacturer, Mahindra and Mahindra, which has several such products in its portfolio like the Bolero, Scorpio, Xylo and XUV500. Others to be hit will be General Motors’ Tavera, Toyota Kirloskar’s Innova and Fortuner, Tata Motors’ Safari, and Hyundai’s Santa Fe. Some cars will also get affected like Hyundai’s Sonata, Skoda’s Superb and Toyota’s Camry, along with most models of luxury cars like Mercedes, Audi and BMW.
Of the total passenger vehicle sales in the country of around 2.6 million, Delhi’s share is 7% with about 30% comprising vehicles that run on diesel.
“We need to understand the full implication of the impending order prior to giving our reaction.” However, the auto industry body had sounded a note of criticism on the NGT’s ban order last week. “We definitely do not agree with the NGT order at all. This is not based on any scientific fact or study,” Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers director general Vishnu Mathur had said. “What was the hurry? Whatever we have seen in the study (IIT Kanpur) only 2.5% of pollution is accounted by cars, both petrol and diesel cars. So to take such a drastic measure to address 2.5% of pollution in Delhi is a ridiculous step and it is not going to help reduce pollution in Delhi,” Mathur had added.
M&M’s executive director Pawan Goenka had also then noted that there should not be any discrimination on the basis of the engine fuel as petrol and CNG run vehicles also emit gases that pollute the environment.
The SC had on October 12 ordered that light duty vehicles would have to pay Rs 700 and three-axle vehicles Rs 1,300 to enter Delhi in addition to the toll tax from November 1 as ECC to check high pollution levels in the city. A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said that it may increase by 100% the ECC on commercial vehicles using Delhi roads as a transit for their onward journey to destinations outside the capital. As a result, light duty vehicles may have to pay Rs 1,400 and three-axle vehicles Rs 2,600 as ECC for entering Delhi.
During the three-hour-long hearing, the bench asked the counsel representing the Centre and the Delhi government to come out with comprehensive long- and short-term plans to tackle the menace of air pollution.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, said 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”.
On being asked by the court, Salve said that the central government said that it will not be introduced before 2020 as it involves revamping of refineries to produce compatible fuel.
During the hearing Salve said that the blame “must lie” with diesel vehicles as 30% of vehicles in Delhi run on diesel.
Opposing Salve’s submission, senior advocate Dushyant Dave said that the diesel vehicles formed a “small part of the overall number of vehicles” and they should not be targeted.
He said that any curbs on diesel vehicles would have a chain reaction involving thousands of workers and huge investments and curbs on diesel-run vehicles were an “impractical solution”.
However, the bench disagreed with the submission and said, “It is a very large number. They are polluting the city.” Salve said that one diesel car is equal to eight petrol cars.
“They are businessmen. They want to make money. The lives of the people are at stake,” the bench said.