TT, New Delhi, March 29: The Supreme Court today banned the sale and registration of all vehicles not compliant with Bharat Stage-IV emission norms from April 1, brushing aside the automobile industry's plea for another year to dispose of the unsold stock of 8.24 lakh BS-III vehicles.
The court said the "health" of people was "far more important than the commercial interest of automobile manufactures".
The order - which covers all commercial and non-commercial vehicles, including two-wheelers - means the unsold BS-III vehicles have to be disposed of by March 31, provided there are buyers.
"We direct that 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 in India by any manufacturer or dealer on and from April 1, 2017," a bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.
"All the vehicle registering authorities under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, are prohibited for 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 bench added.
The order came on a plea by the Environmental Protection Control Authority (EPCA), a body under the Union environment ministry, to shift to BS-IV vehicles that are considered to be less polluting than those compliant with BS-III norms. According to solicitor-general Ranjit Kumar, who appeared for the Centre, the government had already spent Rs 30,000 crore for producing BS-IV compliant fuel.
The manufacturers had argued that they were entitled to produce BS-III vehicles ti ll March 31 this year and so had not violated any rule. They sought a year's extension to sell the unsold stock of around 96,000 commercial vehicles, 670,000 two-wheelers, 16,000 four wheelers and 40,000 three-wheelers.
They were possibly alluding to a 2010 rule. The government had then said there would be an all-India rollout of BS-IV fuel from April 1, 2017, and all vehicles should be BS-IV compliant from this date.
But the EPCA, represented through senior advocate Harish Salve and lawyer Aprajita Singh, who both assisted the court as amici curiae, said the manufacturers had been aware since 2010 that all vehicles would have to convert to BS-IV fuel from April 1, 2017. So they had more than enough time to stop production of BS-III compliant vehicles.
The bench accepted this argument. "Keeping in mind the potential health hazard of such vehicles being introduced on the road affecting millions of our people in the country... 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," it said.
The court said it would pass a detailed order later.
The non-government Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) lauded the court's decision as a "significant step forward" that tells the automobile industry to "walk the extra mile to address the concern around public health".
"It is unacceptable that even though the industry is producing BS-IV vehicles since 2010 for earmarked regions, most companies have not slowed down the production of BS-III," CSE executive director Anumita Roy Chowdhury said. "Instead, they have chosen to remain in a business-as-usual state."