Refuses to extend deadline for converting to CNG; extends ban on fresh registration of diesel vehicles above 2000 cc capacity
On the last day of the Delhi government’s second phase of odd-even scheme, the Supreme Court ordered all diesel and petrol-run taxis to go off the roads in Delhi and National Capital Region from Sunday.
Starting May 1, only CNG-fitted private taxis, including those being operated by aggregators like Ola and Uber, will be allowed to ply, the court held Saturday.
Holding a special hearing, a bench led by Chief Justice TS Thakur declined to extend the deadline of April 30, fixed for conversion of all diesel and petrol-run taxis to CNG mode of fuel.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for some taxi owners, contended there was no technology for converting diesel vehicles into the CNG mode. “We will not be able to earn our livelihood. Moreover, we have to repay the bank loans taken to buy these taxis too,” he pleaded.
But the bench, also comprising Justices AK Sikri and R Banumathi, turned down the plea for extension of the deadline for the conversion of diesel and petrol-run taxis. It pointed out that the deadline had been extended thrice since last year. The first was set on December 16, when the cut-off date was March 1. On January 5, it was extended till March 31, and on March 31, the bench gave taxi owners and aggregators time till April 30. “We are not going to extend the deadline any further,” the bench said.
The court had on December 16 issued the order for conversion after observing that “it will contribute substantially to the reduction of pollution”.
Meanwhile, the bench also extended its ban on fresh registration of diesel vehicles with engine capacity of 2000 cc and above in the NCR till further orders. It said the issues relating to the continuing ban on registration, as well as on imposing environment cess on new diesel vehicles would be taken up on May 9.
Taxis registered in Delhi: 60,000
Taxis running on diesel: 27,000
During the hearing, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented automobile manufactures, read out from a report prepared by IIT-Kanpur on pollution, pointing out the contribution by diesel cars to Delhi’s air pollution was 0.3%. He said there were various other factors such as dust and industrial pollutants that contributed to the pollution manifold.
At this, the bench wondered on possible solutions to bring down pollution despite the odd-even scheme and prohibition of trucks. It also pulled up the Centre, saying: “Now you have woken up from deep slumber. What was the ministry doing all these days? You wait for someone to bring out something. This is a matter affecting everybody. You should examine the position in the rest of the world. What are your officials doing? Are they sitting in their plush offices and sipping coffee? The ministry should do it,” the bench told additional solicitor general Maninder Singh.
The court, however, allowed Delhi Police and Delhi Jal Board to register their new diesel-run vehicles of 2000 cc and above for transportation of undertrial prisoners, arms and ammunition and supply of water. It asked Delhi Police to pay 30% of the cost of the vehicle as as Environment Compensation Charge (ECC). The Delhi Jal Board was exempted from the green cess on the ground that it ferries water tankers to people.
When contacted, Ola said it will abide by the Supreme Court orders, declining to comment further. Uber did not respond to requests for comment.