Nothing wrong with the Government’s scheme of gradual phase out of vehicles not complying with the BS-IV norms

Supreme Court: Explaining the reasons for the order dated 29.03.2017, where it was directed that on and from 1st April, 2017 such vehicles that are not BS-IV compliant shall not be sold or registered in India by any manufacturer or dealer, the Court said that considering the life of such vehicles ranges from 10 to 15 years, the concern is not only for the present population of the country but for future generations who also have an entitlement to breathe pollution free air. This is what sustainable development and inter-generational equity is all about.

Rejecting the argument that every Notification issued by the Government in relation to prohibition of sale of any vehicle not complying with BS-IV Emission norms over the course of years should be interpreted literally, the Court said that if the entire scheme laid out by the Government – of discouraging the manufacture of polluting vehicles and gradually phasing them out coupled with their gradual replacement with fuel efficient vehicles, availability of cleaner and greener fuel and compliance with fuel emission norms is appreciated in a much larger context rather than on a notification by notification basis – the objective behind the scheme would be apparent. The Court said that the Government could very well have issued one single notification way back in 2010 that with effect from 1st April, 2017 but it did not do so to enable all concerned, particularly the auto industry and marketing strategists to gradually manage their affairs rather than subject them to a sudden future shock. The scheme of a gradual phase-out is now sought to be perverted through a literal interpretation of each notification, unfortunately, for a commercial benefit rather than being appreciated in a larger canvas for the benefit of society as a whole.

Lashing out at the interveners, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ said that rather than admit responsibility for a lack of concern of public health issues, some of the interveners have sought to blame Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) for its failure to approach the Government of India to seek amendments to the notifications issued from time to time and to incorporate a prohibition on the sale and registration of BS-III compliant vehicles on or after 1st April, 2017. It was noticed that the EPCA had convened a meeting of all stakeholders on 19th October, 2016 and had brought to the notice of the representatives of SIAM that there would be no sale and registration of BS-III compliant vehicles from 1st April, 2017 and that this should be communicated to all manufacturers in order to give sufficient notice of almost six months to enable the automobile industry to plan its production and sale and take pro-active steps to significantly decrease the production of such vehicles. Therefore, to blame EPCA for their problems is rather unfair of the interveners.

The Court said that it is time to realize that a collective effort is needed to clear up the air. In this process, the interveners have a huge role and they should now wake up to their responsibility for the benefit of all. [M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 394, decided on 13.04.2017]

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