The National Green Tribunal (NGT) got a short in the arm with the Supreme Court on Monday backing its controversial orders banning petrol vehicles older than 15 years and diesel vehicles older than 10 years from the National Capital Region (NCR).
"The tribunal which is a very important public authority is trying to do something good for the people, let us assist them and not discourage them," a bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu said, refusing to interfere with the orders.
The bench made the remarks while dismissing a petition filed by a lawyer Vishaal Jogdand challenging the NGT orders.
Questioning the jurisdiction of NGT in entertaining public interest litigations (PILs), the petition said the tribunal had no jurisdiction under the Motor Vehicles Act or the National Green Tribunal Act or the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) or the Environment Protection Act to pass any order on motor vehicles.
The dismissal of the petition is significant as it comes at a time when the Delhi government and the Centre plan to move the Supreme Court to challenge the NGT order.
The green tribunal had in November last year directed Delhi and its neighbouring states to ban petrol vehicles that are older than 15 years.
More recently, on April 7, it ordered diesel vehicles that are over 10 years old to be taken off the roads in Delhi and its neigbouring states.
The SC bench said: "The tribunal is only repeating orders passed by constitutional courts. Such a ban was first imposed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court earlier."
Both the orders of the green court are likely to affect lakhs of private and commercial vehicles.
Earlier this month, the tribunal had rapped the governments of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for not complying with its 2014 order on tackling pollution.
On April 13, the Delhi government, which was struggling to execute the ban, told the court that it would need more time since it directly affected essential services, including vegetable supply and garbage clearance.
The tribunal, which has temporarily stayed its order for two weeks, has asked the government to suggest ways to enforce the ban by May 1.
It has also asked the government to recommend incentives for those who scrap polluting diesel vehicles.
Debasis Misra, appearing for Jogdand, argued that instead of age of the vehicles, the fitness of the vehicles can be and should be the criteria from stopping them from plying on roads.
Even bringing CNG in 1997-98, did not result in reduction of air pollution and hence, an investigation be undertaken to find out the reasons for it, he said.
Earlier, the NGT, besides banning 15-year-old diesel and petrol vehicles, had also said that no person shall be permitted to burn plastic or any other material in the open.
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