SC issues notice on PIL seeking end to diesel subsidy

    By IANS,

    New Delhi : The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the central government on a PIL seeking an end to the subsidy on diesel and enforcement of Euro-V emission norms for all vehicles running on diesel.

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    A bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Fakir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla and Justice Vikramajit Sen issued notice on the plea seeking a market-determined price mechanism for the diesel used in commercial enterprises including private and commercial vehicles.

    Petitioner Arvind Gupta, who described diesel as the dirtiest of all fuels in the world, has sought the impounding of all the vehicles that do not conform to Euro-IV and Euro-V emission norms and cancellation of their licences and registration.

    Seeking the discontinuation of supply of subsidised diesel to “undeserving sections of society” particularly owners of luxury cars, telecommunication towers of private sector, malls, supermarkets, and 5-star hotels and resorts, the petitioner demanded that they be given diesel at a market-determined price.

    The PIL has also sought the creation of an environmental police department to be equipped with dynamometer smoke-testing equipment for testing vehicular emissions on the roads and levying stiff penalties for violating smoke-emission norms for the vehicles.

    Referring to the WHO report which had said that about two million people die world over every year on account of breathing in tiny particles present in polluted air, Gupta has also urged the court to direct levying of an appropriate cess to compensate the loss suffered by the exchequer on account of supply of subsidised diesel.

    The petition said WHO in its air quality guidelines 2005 had listed New Delhi, Karachi, Beijing and Kathmandu as Asian cities having a very high level of air pollution.

    On the question of compensating the farmers and the people living below poverty line, the petition suggested that they could be compensated for the loss of the subsidy by giving them direct cash subsidies through the AADHAR card.

    In responses to another PIL by Sanjay Kulshreshtra seeking the modernization of road infrastructure and traffic reforms in the wake of exponential increase in number of vehicles, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Monday told the court that there was no policy decision to fix the age limit of the vehicles.

    However, at the time of the renewal of the registration certificate of vehicles, the NHAI said the vehicles owner had to obtain fitness certificate from the authorised testing centre.

    “The vehicles can ply on the Indian roads, as long as it satisfies the prescribed norms and standards mentioned in the Central Motor Vehicles Rules,” the NHAI told the court.

    Defending its track record on the maintenance and repairs of the existing highways, the NHAI said the allocation available annually for this purpose is about 40 percent of the actual requirements, and this gap “has results in thin spreading of resources on large stretches of NHs and consequent difficulty in maintaining entire NH network in traffic-worthy condition”.

    “This leads to compulsion on our part to resort to reactive maintenance and that too within the available fund constraints” and in the absence of timely maintenance of NHs results into the need for premature rehabilitation at much higher level of maintenance, NHAI said.