SC ready to invoke special powers to save Delhi from its ‘toxic air’

  • Bhadra Sinha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Nov 17, 2015 11:22 IST
Vehicular emissions account for a major portion of Delhi's air pollution. (HT File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to revisit its order on collecting green tax from vehicles entering the Capital, saying it would invoke its special powers to save “Delhi and its people” from the city’s toxic air.

“Day in and day out we read in the newspapers that Delhi tops the list of the most polluted cities in the world. People here dread to go out of their houses,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice of India HL Dattu, warning of contempt if the order was not implemented.

The court was hearing an application in which the consortium tasked with collecting the environment compensation charge said it was not ready to assume the “humongous” additional responsibility and wanted out.

SMYR Consortium — the municipal corporation-appointed concessionaire — also collects tax from goods vehicles entering Delhi. “We were really upset to know that the collection did not start on the date fixed by us. At one point we thought of issuing notice to the toll-tax operator also,” the Chief Justice of India told senior advocate Harish Salve, on whose plea the court ordered the green tax.

The court, which has on several occasions expressed concerns about Delhi’s dirty air, had on October 12 ordered the cess — ranging from Rs 700 to Rs 1,300 — on diesel-guzzling trucks entering Delhi.

The court had also said it would wait for four months before hearing pleas against the order.

The collection was to start from November 1, but SMYR Consortium took five days to implement the order.

The South Delhi municipal corporation is the nodal authority for collecting toll tax and signed a contract earlier this year with a private firm for the project.

The concessionaire challenged the order, saying it was beyond the terms of the agreement it had with the civic body.

“This is extremely excessive and improper. There is no application of mind to the contractual agreement which has been entered into,” senior counsel Shyam Divan said.

The order, passed in its absence, was an added responsibility, Divan said, offering to withdraw from the toll-collecting contract.

The case will now be heard on November 27.

Particulate matter 2.5mm — the result of combustion from vehicles, power plants, and other industrial activities — is among the most common pollutants in the city and diesel its biggest contributor.

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