Kerala HC stays NGT order against diesel vehicles

The Kerala High Court on Friday stayed the order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Kochi Special Circuit Bench, banning diesel vehicles more than 10 years old in six cities of Kerala and directing the state government not to register new diesel vehicles of 2,000 cc and above except by public or local authorities.

Justice P B Suresh Kumar issued the interim order while considering the petitions filed by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation, Kerala State Private Bus Operators Federation, Contract Carriage Operators Federation, Travel Operators Association Kerala and others seeking to quash the NGT order.

The court held that the petition filed against the NGT order is maintainable. ''Whenever the alternative institutional mechanism fails, the power of judicial review shall be the safeguard for the common people,'' the court observed.

Rejecting the arguments of the LEAF (Lawyers Environmental Awareness Forum), a green wing of the Kerala High Court Advocates Association, the court observed that the power of judicial superintendence conferred on the High Court under Article 226 and 227 of the Constitution being part of the basic structure of the Constitution could not be taken away by any provision in a statute. The National Green Tribunal Act did not exclude the jurisdiction of the court.

The petitioners contended that the Supreme Court decision in M C Mehta v Union of India and others had prohibited use of diesel vehicles of more than 15 years age in Delhi after granting the bus operators reasonable time to replace their vehicles.

The court observed that a perusal of the apex court judgment would indicate that the decision was rendered with regard to the air pollution level in the National Capital Region of Delhi.

The court also noted the arguments of the counsel that air quality level in the state was far superior to the quality in Delhi. That apart, no data was available with the tribunal regarding the air quality level prevailing in the six cites. ''In the circumstances, the petitioners had made out a strong prima facie case'' for staying the NGT order.