SC open to modifying diesel vehicle ban in Delhi

The Supreme Court on Monday indicated it would consider modifying its order banning the registration of new diesel cars and SUVs with engine capacity of over 2,000cc in the Delhi National Capital Region.

A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices R Banumathi and A K Sikri said, "We are open to modifying the order".

The apex court also sought a concrete road map for phasing out diesel taxis from Delhi-NCR from the Delhi government, the Environment Pollution Control Authority and the Taxi Owners' Association.

The court also indicated that all diesel cars, depending on their price and engine capacity, must pay a one-time environment cess which would be determined after "deliberations".

While doubling the environment compensation charge (ECC) for loaded commercial vehicles entering Delhi, the top court in a 16 December order had imposed a blanket ban on registration of diesel vehicles of 2,000cc and above in Delhi, noting that they cause more pollution and are used by the affluent sections of society.

During the hearing, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar said that diesel was not the only "evil" responsible for pollution, and other fuels like CNG and petrol also contribute.

"Petrol emits carbon monoxide, CNG vehicles release oxides of nitrogen while diesel emits particulate matters, all of which are polluting agents,'' he said and referred to a report by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, which holds that other sources of pollution like dust, stubble burning etc. cannot be underestimated.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for IT industry body National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), told the bench that restriction on plying of diesel-run taxis in Delhi had crippled the transportation of BPO staff as there is a paucity of cabs.

Requesting the court to allow cabs that ferry BPO employees to be exempted from the ban order, Sibal said the sector employees of 250,000 people in NCR and they are ferried mostly by diesel cabs.