The health of the citizen is more important than the commercial interests of the automobile industry, the Supreme Court observed on Wednesday and ordered a freeze on the registration and sale of BS-III fuel compliant vehicles by “any manufacturer or dealer” on and from April 1, when the next level and environmentally friendly BS-IV fuel emission standards are scheduled to kick in.
“On and from April 1, 2017, such vehicles that are not BS-IV compliant shall not be sold in India by any manufacturer or dealer, that is to say that such vehicles, whether two-wheeler, three- wheeler, four-wheeler or commercial vehicles will not be sold,” a Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta ordered.
The court further prohibited registration of vehicles meeting BS-III standards on and from April 1. “All the vehicle registering authorities under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, are prohibited from registering such vehicles on and from April 1, 2017, that do not meet BS-IV emission standards, except on proof that such a vehicle has already been sold on or before March 31, 2017,” the court directed.
The court said it would give detailed reasons for the ban in due course.
‘Answer is obvious’
“The seminal issue is whether the sale and registration and therefore, the commercial interests of manufacturers and dealers of such vehicles that do not meet the Bharat Stage-IV emission standards as on April 1, 2017, takes primacy over the health hazard due to increased air pollution of millions of our countrymen and women. The answer is quite obvious,” it observed.
Vehicle manufacturers argued that they were entitled to make BS-III vehicles till March 31. So, the sale and registration of these vehicles should not be prohibited after April 1 with the introduction of BS-IV norms. They should be given a reasonable time to dispose of their stock.
The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) had submitted data on the manufacturing and sale of BS-III vehicles on a monthly basis from January 2016 and told the court that the companies were holding stock of 8.24 lakh vehicles.
The Centre too had favoured the prospect of selling the existent stock of BS-III vehicles.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar had submitted that it was done twice before when fuel emission norms were upgraded to BS-II and BS-III, respectively. However, the court agreed with the arguments of its amicus curiae, who said that allowing their sale after April 1 would be a cause for “potential health hazard” for millions of people.
New fuel ‘cleaner’
The court had pointed out that the new fuel was “cleaner” and the oil refineries had spent about ₹30,000 crore since 2010 to produce it.
The amicus argued that though the number of the existing stock was 8.24 lakh – miniscule compared to over 19 crore BS-III vehicles already plying on the roads – the “health of the people is far, far more important than the commercial interests of the manufacturers or the loss that they are likely to suffer in respect of the so-called small number of such vehicles.”
Poser to manufacturers
The court asked why manufacturers decided to sit back and not take pro-active steps despite knowing way back in 2010 that BS-IV norms would kick in by April 2017.
So, it was entirely at their own cost and peril that some manufacturers refused to switch over to BS-IV despite having the technology to do so.
“Keeping the larger public interest in mind and the potential health hazard to millions of our country men and women due to increased air pollution, there is no justification for any of the manufacturers not shifting to the manufacture of BS-IV compliant vehicles well before April 1, 2017,” the court observed.