Emphasising on the urgent need to move to a cleaner fuel as early as possible, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed that only Bharat Stage VI (BS-VI) vehicles shall be sold across the country from April 1, 2020. A bench comprising justices MB Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta rejected the Centre and the automobile manufacturers’ request for a three-month and six-month extension of the deadline so that the latter can sell their non-BS-VI vehicles.
“Any extension of time in introducing the new norms which is not absolutely necessary adversely impacts the health of the citizens… There is sufficient time for the manufacturers to change over to the new system, and therefore, we see no reason why they should be given a window of three or six months for sale of accumulated vehicles. Every vehicle sold after the cut-off date of April 1, 2020, is bound to cause more pollution and, therefore, the manufacturers cannot be permitted to sell any non-BS-VI compliant vehicle on or after April 1, 2020,” the court said.
Rejecting the manufacturers’ plea that there were multiple sources of pollution and vehicles only contribute 2%, it said “…no step is too small when it comes to fighting pollution. Small steps to reduce pollution when taken together will lead to large scale reduction in pollution…”.
Justice Gupta, writing the judgment for the bench, said the right to life, as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, includes the right of a citizen to live in a clean environment. “…if there is a conflict between health and wealth, obviously, health will have to be given precedence. When we are concerned with the health of not one citizen but the entire citizenry, including the future citizens of the country, the larger public interest has to outweigh the much smaller pecuniary interest of the industry, in this case the automobile industry, especially when the entire wherewithal to introduce the cleaner technology exists.”
“If we were to factor only economics even then it makes no sense to have more polluting vehicles on the roads. The effect of pollution on the environment and health is so huge that it cannot be compensated in the marginal extra profits that the manufacturers might make. The amount spent on countering the ills of pollution such as polluted air, damaged lungs and the cost of healthcare far outweigh the profits earned,” the judgment said.
Counsel Sandeep Narain, appearing for the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam), had submitted that though the firms are not averse to manufacturing BSVI compliant vehicles, they should be given some time to sell the stocks of nonBSVI vehicles manufactured up to March 31, 2020. While seeking a grace period of three months, it had referred to a government notification of February 20 this year which said registration of private vehicles manufactured up to April 1, 2020, should be done till June 30, 2020.
Advocate Aparajita Singh, assisting the SC as an amicus curiae, had opposed the government’s move to extend the deadline till June 30, 2020.