Relief for BPOs as SC eases diesel taxi ban in Delhi

Diesel and petrol taxis which have an All India Tourist Permit (AITP) will be allowed to run in the Delhi National Capital Region till the expiry of their permits, as the Supreme Court on Tuesday modified its earlier order asking them to convert to compressed natural gas or stop plying. There are 64,532 such AITP vehicles in Delhi.

The bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur however banned registration of new diesel taxis.

The order came on petitions filed by Delhi government seeking modification of the court's 30 April order banning all taxis which had not converted to CNG.

The Kejriwal government had rushed to the court citing "law and order problems" after protests by taxi owners crippled traffic in Delhi for nearly a week.

The Centre too had supported the Delhi government petition that the sudden ban will mean that several Business Process Outsourcing firms which work mostly in night will not have cabs to pick or drop their employees at odd hours.

"There will be a safety and security issue especially for women employees. If the scarcity continues for long the BPOs may even go out of the country," Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar had told the court.

"All registration of new city taxis will be only of vehicles that operate on dual fuel or petrol or CNG and no diesel vehicles will be registered as city taxis," said the court.

"All the existing All India Tourist Permit taxies operating in the National Capital Region will be converted into AITP (old) category and will be allowed to operate until such time as their permits expire. AITP (O) taxies will be allowed to operate as at present, but it is made clear that only old AITP taxis would be registered," said the court.

The bench made it clear that new AITP permits will be issued as AITP(N) and these taxis will not be allowed to take up point-to-point service within the NCR and will only be permitted to carry tourists to inter-state locations.

"All India Tourist Permit taxis will not be allowed to take up point-to-point service within the NCR and serve BPO staff. They are employees of offices not tourists," said the court.

"We are committed to tackling pollution as you Lordship is aware of various steps the government is taking but in this case a crisis has arisen," the state government had earlier told the court during a hearing on its request seeking implementation of the ban on diesel cabs in a phased manner.

"We also don't intend to cause a human problem, but whenever these steps are taken, it does lead to some initial inconvenience," the CJI had said.

A 2014 WHO survey of more than 1,600 cities ranked Delhi as the most polluted, partly because of the nearly 10 million vehicles on its roads.