Ban on diesel vehicles; SC agrees to hear plea of auto majors

New Delhi :The Supreme Court today asked auto giants—Mercedes-Benz India, Toyota and Mahindra and Mahindra—whether their heavy diesel vehicles were less polluting than those run on petrol even as it agreed to hear their pleas seeking lifting of the ban on registration of diesel automobiles of 2000 CC and above.

“How will you dispute the basic fact that diesel vehicles are not polluting the environment? Are you trying to say that diesel vehicles are non-polluting and only petrol vehicles are polluting?

“First, we have to ascertain whether diesel vehicles are polluting or not. The fundamental point which we have to go into is which is most polluting—diesel, petrol or CNG. You have to satisfy us on that aspect,” the bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi said.

It directed the car manufacturers to produce documentary evidence suggesting that the diesel cars and SUVs polluted less than petrol cars.

A battery of lawyers appearing for the automobile manufacturers said that diesel-propelled cars and SUVs did not cause pollution as they use advanced technology and adhere to the emission norms.

The counsel appearing for the auto majors also claimed that vehicles like Boleros and Sumos are used by the common man in rural areas and the prohibition has had a tremendous impact on the middle class.

To this, the bench said, “which class of people are using 2000 cc vehicles? It is used by the rich people only… You are saying diesel vehicles cause less pollution. So are your vehicles emitting oxygen?”

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, counsel for Toyota, said in lighter vein, “only this court emits oxygen”.

“How can the government be a polluter,” asked the bench.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae in the 1984 PIL filed by emvironmentalist M C Mehta, opposed the contention of auto majors that it would be difficult for them to leapfrog to stricter emission norms under Bharat Stage BS-VI, saying they are selling Euro-VI compliant vehicles in Europe.

The car manufacturers had moved the apex court seeking modification of December 15 order banning registration of diesel-run SUVs and cars having engine capacity beyond 2000 cc in Delhi and National Capital Region till March 31.