The end to the diesel dilemma in India, particularly the Delhi-NCR region, seems to be in sight.
As per a PTI report, the government has told the Supreme Court that a new policy to combat pollution including the scrapping of old diesel vehicles and a scheme to replace about 28 million automobiles registered before March 31, 2005, by BS IV-compliant ones by April 2017, is on the anvil.
The government also submitted that the "Government has already announced the draft policy for voluntary vehicle fleet modernisation programme as it has been recognised that old vehicles are significant contributors to ambient air pollution within the road vehicle sector in May 2015."
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi that the government is mulling providing monetary incentives to old vehicle owners for replacing them with BS-IV standard, and by 2020, there will be vehicles complying with BS-VI standards."Government will shell out Rs 50,000 to Rs 100,000 (to each old vehicle owner)," the Attorney General said.
He made these submissions while placing before the bench the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Heavy Industry and Public Enterprise in which it also opposed the suggestion that apex court will determine the amount of an environment tax likely to be imposed on owners of large diesel-engined vehicles at the time of registration.
"It is humbly submitted that the likely imposition of green cess for diesel cars of more than 2000cc will not be in consonance with the constitutional scheme of things as in terms of Article 265 of the Constitution, no tax can be levied without authority of law and such cess must be imposed through legislation by authority of Parliament,” he said.
The PTI report quoted Rohatgi as saying, "The presumption that bigger diesel engines create more pollution is not correct as bigger diesel cars have better emission norms."
"Are you (AG) appearing for automobile companies or the Centre," the bench asked Rohatgi.
"I am appearing on behalf of the Ministry of Heavy Industry and Public Enterprises. Banning the registration will show the inconsistencies in our norms and regulations. Huge FDIs are involved. Lakhs of jobs are there," Rohatgi said and referred to data to show that diesel cars, which are half of the engine capacity of big vehicles like Land Rover, emit more particulate matters (PM).
The Attorney General said the Centre is willing to conduct a "multi-pronged study" on diesel vehicles' effect on the environment and the imposition of green cess and would come back to the court, and, in the meantime, the stay on the registration of big diesel vehicles should be lifted.
"Who is stopping you from doing the study," the bench then asked.
The bench, which had earlier said it may allow registration of diesel vehicles again in Delhi and NCR, yesterday reiterated it and proposed that the green cess to be levied could be one percent of the purchase value of such vehicles and reserved the order.
Also read: Government working on vehicle scrappage eco-system