NGT can expand scope of VW case to other carmakers: SC

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Published: January 22, 2019 12:56:42 AM

A Bench led by Justices DY Chandrachud said that the green tribunal may consider whether the scope of the emission related case, involving Volkswagen presently, could be expanded to other carmakers also.

NGT can expand scope of VW case to other carmakers: SC

The Supreme Court on Monday said that the National Green Tribunal can examine automobile manufacturers other than Volkswagen also for flouting emission norms if it deemed fit to widen the judicial scrutiny. However, it refused to interfere with the NGT’s proceedings related to Volkswagen India over allegations that the German auto major violated environment norms and evaded pollution tests by fitting its diesel engines with cheat devices.

A Bench led by Justices DY Chandrachud said that the green tribunal may consider whether the scope of the emission related case, involving Volkswagen presently, could be expanded to other carmakers also.

The bench refused to interfere with the orders of NGT imposing `100 crore fine on the automaker but restrained it from taking any punitive action against its directors after it complied with the orders and deposited the penalty amount with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

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Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Volkswagen, said that the company has been singled out for violation of norms which are “non-existent.”
Volkswagen is completely in compliance with all the environmental norms in India and the company’s cars strictly adhere to Bharat Stage IV norms, he said, adding that the cars in India are “laboratory-tested.”

The senior counsel said there is a proposal to introduce “road-testing” for vehicles in India, but not before 2023. Singhvi said his company has been fined under a non existent law.

The company also argued that the expert committee has representatives from CPCB, heavy industries ministry, Automotive Research Association of India and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, but not the the ministry of road transport and highways, which is directly concerned with the issue. The top court also asked the NGT to hear the Union ministry of road and transport in the case.

Volkswagen India had moved the top court challenging the orders of the green tribunal directing the company to deposit `100 crore with the CPCB while a committee decides on the allegations of emission norms violations.

On January 17, the NGT had slammed Volkswagen for not depositing `100 crore, imposed on it for damaging the environment through use of ‘cheat device’ in its diesel cars, and directed it to submit the amount within 24 hours failing which its directors would be sent to jail. It had also stated that the deposit was only an interim measure and constituted a joint team of representatives of the CPCB, ministry of heavy industries, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute.

The four-member committee has also recommended `171.34-crore fine on Volkswagen as “health damages” for causing air pollution in Delhi due to excess nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. The expert panel had estimated that Volkswagen cars released approximately 48.678 tonne NOx in 2016 in the national capital.

The green tribunal is currently hearing couple of pleas filed by Delhi based activists against the Volkswagen saying the company has violated pollution norms. The pleas were filed in 2015, in the wake of the controversy in various Western countries that Volkswagen had fitted its cars with a “cheat device” that helped cars pass the pollution test in various countries. Volkswagen India had in December 2015 announced the recall of 3,23,700 lakh vehicles in India to fix the emission software after ARAI conducted tests on some models and found that their on-road emissions were 1.1 times to 2.6 times higher than the applicable
BS-IV norms.

The automobile giant had admitted to the use of ‘defeat device’ in 11 million diesel engine cars sold in the US, Europe and other global markets to manipulate emission test results. In 2017 the company had pleaded guilty in the US.

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