The Supreme Court today issued a notice to the Centre on a petition seeking 25 per cent 'environment compensation charge' on new private diesel vehicles. Dealers would charge this on the value of the vehicle.
The court bench, headed by Aftab Alam, told the government to reply to the petition, saying, "We will give high priority to this." The reply would have to be filed within four weeks, and the matter would be taken up after the court's year-end recess.
On current vehicles, the petition filed by Supreme Court's amicus curiae Harish Salve sought a directive that a charge of two per cent of the purchase value of petrol-fuelled cars and four per cent of the value of diesel-fuelled cars be levied in the National Capital Region. The petition added the amount, along with the premium, should be collected annually by insurance companies.
Senior counsel Salve, who led the environmental cases (M C Mehta petitions) that resulted in public transport in Delhi using compressed natural gas, argued the Bhure Lal committee had been trying to tackle the problem of diesel pollution for a long time, but with little success.
The court said the principle of "polluter pays" should be strictly applied to diesel vehicles "across the board". The counsel said there was adequate evidence diesel was a major polluter. "Even if you have a Mercedes, the particulate matter emitted is dangerous to people," Salve said, adding, "If you want luxury, you pay." He said two million cars on Delhi roads were ruining the environment and public health.
When the judges asked him why public transport couldn't be improved, Salve said more buses meant more pollution. The introduction of the metro alone was a positive step in this regard, he added.
The court also issued another notice to the government on a petition that said work was stalled on the eastern and western corridors of Delhi. The western corridor was stuck at 60 per cent completion, while the eastern wing hadn't taken off at all, the counsel said. The two corridors were meant to divert trucks entering Delhi and had been approved by the court earlier. "People's health cannot be held to ransom," the counsel said.