Supreme Court ruled that diesel taxis with All India Tourist permit will be allowed to operate in Delhi/NCR till their permit expires.
In a major relief to cab operators in the national capital region (NCR), the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that diesel taxis with All India Tourist permit will be allowed to operate in Delhi/NCR till their permit expires.
“No new diesel taxis will be registered in Delhi. All registration of city taxis shall only be permitted only if the vehicles operate on dual-fuel (CNG/Petrol), or purely CNG or petrol. We make it clear that no new diesel vehicles can be registered as city taxis,” a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said.
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“These diesel taxis will have to comply with regulations of safety, security and fare,” the apex court ruled. “Safety and security is an important aspect as you must have seen some of the recent incidents,” the bench observed.
New AITP permits will be labelled ‘AITP-N’ and holders will not be authorised to offer point-to-point (within city) services in NCR while existing AITPs will be converted to ‘AITP-O’ permits for NCR to provide point-to-point services, like those used by business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, the court added.
The order came after senior advocate Harish Salve, appointed as amicus curiae in the case, told the bench that the ban order has forced 64,500 taxis off the road leading to a trouble situation overnight.
He suggested that Centre should issue norms for regulating taxis having All India Permits and it should decide a way forward for non-diesel cabs.
A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur had on Monday said the ban on registration of diesel vehicles above 2,000cc will continue in Delhi until further orders. However, it went on to say that it was in favour of a symbolic environment cess on purchase of small/big diesel vehicles as “people buying diesel vehicles should know that they are buying a polluting vehicle…We are of the view that diesel pollutes more than petrol”.
In order to quantify the amount of cess imposed, variables like the price of the car and its engine capacity will be kept in mind, the CJI said.
While seeking relaxation of order of ban on diesel taxis in the NCR, the Centre told the SC that since the government is making all efforts to bring in foreign and domestic manufacturers under its ‘Make in India’ campaign to increase production, the courts have no power to impose any ban, including one on diesel vehicles if the carmakers are adhering to prescribed standards.
Solicitor general Ranjit Kumar argued that vehicles are not the only source of pollution in Delhi, but there are also other sources like road dust,etc. He further said diesel is not “the only devil”, CNG and petrol vehicles also contribute to pollution in NCR. However, the CJI observed that the government was not enforcing rules to curb pollution and it can’t undermine vehicular pollution.
Aimed at bringing down pollution levels in the Capital that has earned it the tag of the world’s most polluted city, the top court’s first order against diesel-run commercial vehicles came in December. The interim order banning registration of diesel-run vehicles with engine capacity of 2000 cc and above was imposed till March 31, and then extended till April 30. The apex court had initially asked the diesel cab operators in the NCR to switch over to CNG by March 1. That deadline was later extended to March 31 and then to April 30.
NASSCOM senior counsel Kapil Sibal told the bench that the ban order could drive business out of country as 2.5 lakh people are working in the BPOs in the NCR. It further said it needs time to phase out 14,000 taxis being used as of now.
Ban on diesel cabs is affecting the business sentiment in Gurgaon and Noida and women employees were particularly facing the brunt of the SC ban on diesel taxis.
There are around 55,000 diesel-run taxis with all-India permit.
Sibal, who also appeared for car manufacturer Toyota argued that the SC’s assumption that diesel cars pollute more than petrol is wrong. He said Toyota invested Rs 12,000 crore in diesel technology last year.
In its submissions, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) cited an IIT Kanpur report to show that only 2% of the total PM2.5 emission in the national capital region came from all passenger vehicles, including petrol, diesel as well as CNG-powered vehicles.
SIAM argued that BS IV cars are 25% more fuel-efficient than previous generation. Senior counsel A M Singhvi, appearing for SIAM, argued that the initial cost of diesel cars is higher and its the most-taxed commodity after tobacco. Further, he argued that only 0.5% of the 2% pollution caused by passenger vehicles was due to BS IV compliant vehicles, hence there is no justification for either ban on registration of new lower emission vehicles or to add any incremental tax on them.
SIAM suggested the apex court to that thermal power plants in the radius of 300 km around the NCR should be shut down, the carmakers should migrate to BS VI by 2020 and oil refineries must increase capacity to provide BS VI fuel.