The Supreme Court has asked for a “quick positive response” from the Centre and Delhi government on the possibility of a pollution tax on commercial vehicles passing through the Capital, which has the dirtiest air in the world.
The Union government, during the hearing, indicated it was not averse to a levy of Rs 600 being imposed on light vehicles and Rs 1,200 on heavy vehicles.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India HL Dattu gave the two governments time till Wednesday to spell out their stand and fixed October 8 to hear senior advocate Harish Salve’s plea.
Salve, who has been assisting the court in environment-related issues, said with the winter round the corner, air pollution levels — vehicular emission form a large part of them — would rise further.
Delhi’s winter is particularly harsh on elderly, children and those with respiratory diseases as polluted air aggravates symptoms of chest infections such as asthma, bronchitis, respiratory distress syndrome etc. Symptoms tend to worsen when mercury drops as pollutants remain suspended in the air longer.
Agreeing with Salve, the CJI said his grandson was wearing a mask to school. “When I asked him why he wore it, he said his school asked him to wear it. He looks like a Ninja with the mask,” he told Salve who, in turn, said all his family members had developed asthma.
“I have also been diagnosed with asthma and have had to depend on steroids for the first time to keep it under check,” Salve said. His wife and daughter had developed respiratory problems despite no family history.
“This is a serious issue. We will take up this matter on Thursday. We want positive response,” the court said.
The World Health Organisation, which named Delhi as the world’s most polluted city, has also declared polluted air a carcinogenic.
About 85,000 trucks entered Delhi every day from different parts of the country and passed through the Capital to avoid paying toll tax, Salve told the court.
Air pollution was 100 times more than the permissible limits in Delhi, solicitor general Ranjit Kumar said.
The government, the Centre’s senior-most legal officer said, may not be averse to the idea of a pollution levy, seeking time to send in a response in writing.
Noting that diesel was the prime source of air pollution in Capital, the National Green Tribunal said on April 7 diesel vehicles older than 10 years would not be permitted to ply in Delhi and neighbourhood. The green court, however, stayed the ban after it was challenged by a truckers’ body. The case now comes up for hearing on October 7.