New Delhi: In a major setback to diesel-based taxis, such vehicles will not be allowed to run in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR) from May 1 after the Supreme Court on Saturday refused to give more time to taxi operators to switch to the cleaner compressed natural gas (CNG).
The deadline for the change, which has been extended twice, is Saturday.
A number of cab operators and their associations urged the court for an extension of the deadline, but a bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice AK Sikri and Justice R Banumati refused the request.
Welcoming the move, Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai said: "Such strict steps are necessary to curb rising pollution."
The apex court by its December 16, 2015 order had asked the diesel cab operators in National Capital Territory of Delhi to switch over to CNG by March 1. However, by its January 5, 2016 order, the court brought all the diesel cars operating in NCR in the ambit of its December 16, 2015 and extended the deadline to March 31.
On March 31 on request by the diesel cab operators, the time was extended to April 30 with court then making it clear that it would give not further extension of time to switch over to CNG.
The matter related to steps to be taken to curb alarming increase in air pollution in the national capital.
In another case, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) termed "arbitrary" the ban on diesel vehicles with engine capacity of 2,000 cc or more imposed by the top court as a measure to curb deteriorating air quality.
During the hearing, SIAM, seeking the lifting of the ban on such diesel vehicles, told the apex court that ban was arbitrary as there was no "established" link between engine capacity and the emission levels.
The diesel vehicles with engine capacities of 2,000 cc or more were being wrongly targeted for deteriorating air quality in the national capital, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for SIAM said, adding that the real culprits were older pre-BS I, BS I and BS II diesel vehicles emitting more pollution, and these should be phased out or fined.
The Supreme Court by its December 16 order had imposed a blanket ban on registration of diesel vehicles of 2,000 cc and above including SUVs in the NCR.
Though Saturday is a non-working day for the court, but Chief Justice Thakur decided to hold the hearing on it to save time on other working days.
Apparently supporting the position taken by the automobile manufacturers, the central government said that a balance had to be struck between protecting environment and the manufacturing activities.
Singhvi meanwhile took the court through the report of the study undertaken by the IIT Kanpur which says that of the total pollution in Delhi, vehicular emission - of all commercial, passenger, 2, 3, & 4 wheelers - accounted for just 20 percent, while road dust was the biggest contributor with 38 percent.
The apex bench allowed the application of Delhi Police to purchase 197 heavy-duty vehicles to be used for various activities, including VVIP security, but asked it to pay a 30 percent environment compensation charge (ECC) on the total cost of vehicles.
In granting the permission, the court modified its earlier order banning the registration of diesel vehicles of 2000 cc and above engine capacity.
Besides, Delhi Police, the court also allowed NDMC and SDMC to get their heavy duty vehicles for the collection, transportation and disposal of garbage - registered after paying 30 per cent ECC, and the Delhi Jal Board to purchase 250 vehicles to replace 240 vehicles which have been in service for more than 10 years.