The Supreme Court directed the Centre on Friday to ensure that vehicles that do not have a valid Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificate cannot get insurance cover.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta passed the order after the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), set up by the SC, pointed out through amicus curiae Aparajita Singh that pollution caused by vehicular emissions remained a huge problem.
A large number of vehicles in the Delhi national capital region (NCR) in particular continue to dodge pollution control laws while fake PUC certificates are easily available, Singh told the court.
The bench also noted that some refilling outlets in the NCR did not have PUC centres, and instructed Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the ministry of road transport and highways, to ensure that these missing centres be filled within four weeks.
The road transport ministry had opposed EPCA's suggestion on two grounds. First, the cost of third-party insurance of existing vehicles was very low, and hence PUC linkage with insurance might not yield results in reducing vehicular emissions. Also, validity of PUC certificates varied from three months to one year whereas insurance was renewed annually.
The bench brushed aside the Centre's objections and directed it to link PUC with insurance cover for vehicles.
If this order covers the entire country, then as many as 26 million vehicles, in the four metros and Bengaluru alone, would come under the PUC-insurance linkage, The Times of India reported.
As of 31 March 2016, there were 8.8 million vehicles in Delhi, 6.1 million in Bengaluru, 4.47 million in Chennai, 3.86 million in Kolkata and 2.7 million in Mumbai.
The court also ordered the ministry to ensure proper calibration of instruments for checking emission levels, certification of authorised manufacturers of emission testing machines and registration and authentication of those operating the machines for checking emission of vehicles.
On the orders of the SC, EPCA had carried out a survey in NCR and submitted a report on its assessment of PUC centres.
It said the survey "revealed that there are serious quality concerns in the way PUC tests are conducted and equipment maintained in numerous PUC centres across the NCR region".
"Malpractice is evident and noticeable. One of the reasons for this is the way PUC centres are organised. These centres are numerous, small and decentralised with very weak regulatory oversight. It is very difficult to inspect and monitor all of them. In Delhi alone, there are 971 centres but the transport department has only 28 inspectors, and among them, only one inspector is available for actual on-ground inspection of so many stations. In NCR towns, the number of inspectors varies between two to nine whereas PUC centres are in two digits to more than 100 in one town," the EPCA said.