A decade old diesel vehicles will now have to go off the roads with the National Green Tribunal today declining to lift its ban on them in Delhi-NCR, noting that emissions from diesel vehicles were carcinogenic. The green panel said the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises has failed to prove that the use of 10 year old vehicles will not be harmful to the health of people. It also said that a report of the pollution monitoring body has declared that one new diesel car is equivalent to 24 petrol and 84 new CNG cars on road. Refusing to recall its order directing deregistration of old diesel vehicles, the green tribunal said the Ministry’s plea seeking modification of the NGT direction was not maintainable and liable to be rejected at the threshold. A bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar also junked the government’s plea on the ground that the Supreme Court has rejected similar appeals challenging the ban on vehicles and the orders passed by this Tribunal had reached “logical end and finality.”
“Undisputedly, the applicant (Centre) had failed to substantiate before passing of the order dated April 7, 2015 that use of diesel vehicles of more than 10 years will not be detrimental to the health of people and further failed to negate statistical information that the particulate matter level in vehicular emissions consequent to diesel as fuel was scientifically proved to be carcinogenic, leading to fatality and undetectable setback in health shortening the life span…,” the bench said. Referring to a report published by the Central Pollution Control Board, the green body said the use of diesel in vehicles was highly toxic carcinogenic and leads to untimely fatality. “The report speaks loudly, that it is the most harmful of the exhaust emissions which release particulate emission, that is carcinogenic. The report declares one new diesel car is equivalent to 24 petrol cars and 84 new CNG cars on road,” the tribunal said.
The bench which delivered the judgement also comprised Justices Jawad Rahim and R S Rathore and expert member B S Sajwan. The green panel refused to agree with the submission of the Ministry that its order banning 10-year-old diesel vehicles and directing it to be scrapped was in violation to the Motor Vehicle Act,1988. It said that if in a given circumstance the government failed to discharge its statutory obligation, the tribunal cannot be a “silent spectator” and let the citizens suffer. “Undoubtedly, facts in this case are that despite the direction of Supreme Court to ensure clean air and improve the ambient air quality in Delhi-NCR, the state machinery has failed. “It is evident that the Centre and state failed to take such steps as are necessary including examining the ill-effect on the environment by use of diesel vehicles which are old and have impacted the air quality adversely, though the provision in Section 59 conferred discretion on the Central Government to specify age it has failed to exercise such power,” the bench said.
It also said that the circumstances and material data regarding the consequences of degradation in ambient air quality had necessitated the NGT action. Rebutting the Centre’s argument that right to property guaranteed by the Constitution cannot be infringed by it, the NGT said the right is not absolute and subject to reasonable restrictions. “We affirmatively hold that provision of Motor Vehicle Act and such other enactments are subject to Environment Protection Act as the provisions of enactments dealing with environment are in furtherance to protecting right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution,” the bench said. “Consequently, we hold that the directions issued by this Tribunal on July 18, 2016 and July 20, 2016 are legal and suffer from no legal infirmity or lack of jurisdiction. Contentions to the contrary urged in this regard are therefore discounted,” the NGT order said.
The tribunal said its orders of April 7, 2015 and those dated July 18 and July 20, 2016 had “stood the test of judicial review by the Supreme Court in exercise of its statutory power of Appeal. Thus in no circumstances the orders in question are assailable.” On April 7, 2015 the NGT had banned all diesel vehicles over ten years old from plying in Delhi-NCR roads. Later, on July 18 and 20 last year, it had ordered deregistration of 15 to 10 years old diesel vehicles in the national capital in a phased manner. It had said that diesel vehicles which are 15- years-old should be de-registered first and will not get No Objection Certificate (NoC) for plying outside Delhi-NCR. Only de-registered diesel vehicles which are less than 15-years old can get NoC for plying in select areas outside Delhi-NCR to be decided by states where vehicle density is less, the NGT had said