Car companies and residents of Delhi-NCR aspiring to own a diesel SUVs are in for big relief. The Supreme Court on Monday softened its stand considerably on the ban on the sale of 2000cc plus diesel cars and also on levying of stiff pollution cess after the Modi government threw its weight behind the auto manufacturers.
After hearing a petition filed by the Centre, seeking modification of court's December 16, 2015 order, a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur hinted it might lift the ban and permit car companies that pay one per cent of the cost of the vehicle as environment cess to sell its SUVs and also allow the Centre to come up with a policy for diesel vehicles and the imposition of pollution tax.
It is a big climb down as going by the tone of CJI Thakur earlier, he was set to impose up to 30 per cent of car cost as environment cess as per a suggestion by the court-appointed EPCA. "There is no rationale to show that 2000cc plus cars are bigger polluters. We are proceeding on the premise that they are meeting emission norms. Big diesel cars have better emission norms that smaller car.
The ban has its difficulties too. It sends a message that there are inconsistencies in our policy and it affects FDI and also millions of jobs. Huge investment have been made by foreign companies and they are saying we will go away if the ban continues.", Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the bench.
AG said a court cannot impose any cess on vehicles and it was the duty of the executive. "we are ready to conduct a multi-pronged study on the effect of diesel on the environment and possible green cess and that can even be under the auspices of the court.
Then the court retorted: "OK. No problem. You also take the view of the car manufacturers as this is not an adversarial litigation. The whole idea is to make Delhi livable. Remember the difficult decision of conversion of all buses and public transport to CNG. We also want to place it ( any cess) on jurisdictional principle and does not want it to be seen as an impulsive step".
Then the AG urged the court to allow it to come up with some initiative to which the court said "no we are not levying any cess. We are holding it".
Toyota and Mercedes volunteered to deposit one per cent cost of purchase of each of its SUV in the court to which the CJI said "anyone who pays can sell as many cars he wants to..we will make it clear in our order".