The Supreme Court has extended the ban on registration of new diesel vehicles with an engine capacity of 2,000 cc and above in Delhi and the National Capital Region until further notice.

On Monday, telling leading car manufacturers that they are in the “business of pollution”, the apex court appealed to thousands of BPO employees to co-operate with its ban on diesel cabs, saying they breathe the same polluted air as any citizen of Delhi while their owners sit overseas making millions.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur was responding to car manufacturer Toyota’s arguments on how the ban on diesel-run cabs would affect the country’s economy.

“The nation is suffering. The business of BPOs is mostly done at night. Employees have to be ferried in these taxis,” senior advocate Kapil Sibal declared in his submissions.

“The nation is suffering? These employees you talk of who travel in the taxis breathe the same air as us while their owners sit somewhere abroad making millions... You also need to co-operate. This is not an adverse litigation,” Chief Justice Thakur responded.

Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, said vehicles cause only 8-10 per cent of Delhi's pollution. Addressing Kumar, the Chief Justice said: “Tell us, what is the level of concern you (the Centre) have for the environment?”

“You have prescribed standards... How are you enforcing them? If there was enforcement in the country, this would have been a different country,” Chief Justice Thakur observed.

The court even asked Kumar what his client’s take was on installing catalytic converters and particulate filters in existing diesel vehicles.

On April 30, the Centre had agreed to respond to suggestions made in court to mandatorily install catalytic converters or diesel particulate filters, which are said to reduce vehicular pollution by as much as 80 per cent. This would also help the country quickly raise its emission norms and solve the problem of getting rid of vehicles over 10 years.

To this, Kumar responded that the Centre is promoting ‘Make in India’ and manufacturers of these devices would have to meet the standards set by the scheme in India.

Focus on pollution

The court said that it would focus primarily on vehicular pollution and indicated that it was even willing to “modify” its blanket ban on fresh registration of diesel SUVs and cars with over 2,000cc engine capacity.

“Assuming that diesel is more polluting, we are open to modification, but not unconditionally. A person purchasing a diesel vehicle should be made to know that he is doing so at a cost,” Chief Justice Thakur observed.

Following the dictum of the “polluter pays principle”, the Bench said such buyers should be made to pay a one-time cess for opting for a diesel vehicle. The court said it wanted to be addressed on what the scale of such a cess should be.

“Should it be based on the price of the vehicle, the engine capacity and should there be a difference based on whether the vehicle is commercial or non-commercial... Even purchasers of lighter diesel vehicles should be made to pay this cess,” said Chief Justice Thakur, drawing the roadmap for the future course of hearings.

The court decided to hear on May 10 the petitions filed by the Delhi government and the Centre seeking modification of its April 30 order banning diesel cabs in Delhi.