The Supreme Court will hold a special hearing on Saturday on the plea of automobile giants like Mercedes, Toyota, Mahindra and Mahindra and General Motors that want the ban on registration of high-end diesel cars with engine capacity of 2000cc in the national capital region to be lifted.
The interim order banning registration of diesel-run vehicles with engine capacity of 2000cc and above is in force until April 30.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, which turned down the Centre’s plea to defer the hearing, expressed its displeasure when solicitor general Ranjit Kumar sought a postponement of the special hearing.
Kumar had pointed out that none of the law officers would be available on Saturday as they were going for a conference of the Supreme Court Middle Income Group Legal Aid Society in Cuttack in Odisha.
The bench said the date for April 30 was fixed after the judges concerned cancelled their prior engagements.
“We have fixed the hearing on a non-working day and all the parties had agreed. We will take it up tomorrow. Ask one of your law officers to be here,” the bench had said on Friday.
“We had fixed it as many people wanted the hearing and they had agreed for hearing on a Saturday,” the bench said.
The bench told Kumar that additional solicitor general Maninder Singh, who was present in the courtroom, should be asked to appear on Saturday.
It was not convinced that more than one advocate would be required as several ministries like industry and others are involved in it as issues relate to policy matters.
The SC had on March 31 asked all the stakeholders to sit together and come out with “propositions” so that some solutions could be arrived at by holding a full-fledged hearing on Saturdays, a non-working day for the apex court, to save “judicial time”.
Besides the CJI, the bench would comprise justice AK Sikri and justice R Banumathi.
While extending the deadline in its last hearing for converting diesel-run taxis into CNG and continuing with the status-quo on registration of high-end diesel vehicles, the bench had asked the big car makers not to treat the PIL as an “adversarial litigation” and “treat it in public interest”.
“We are conscious of the fact that the order is going to affect the companies, market and the economy,” it had said.
When the arguments were made by senior advocates like Gopal Subramaniam, CA Sundaram, P Chidambaram and others on behalf of automobile majors, the bench had said, “You have two choices, first to continue with the ban for six months or secondly, we impose the compensation charge on purchasers of these diesel vehicles”.
In a bid to tackle rising pollution level in the capital, the court had on December 16 also restricted the entry of commercial vehicles into Delhi from NH-8 which connects Jaipur to Delhi and NH-1 that connects the states of Punjab, Haryana and other northern states to Delhi via Kundli border.
The bench had also directed the Centre, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, National Highways Authority of India and the MCD to implement its directions and ensure that no inconvenience is caused to the public. It had also sought a report.
Prior to this, the court had barred registration of diesel-run sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and high-end private cars with engine capacity of 2000cc and above in Delhi and National Capital Region till March 31, 2016.
The court also directed 100% hike in Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) being levied on light and heavy commercial vehicles entering Delhi.
It had directed that “all taxis including those operating under aggregators like OLA and UBER in the NCT of Delhi, plying under city permits shall move to CNG not later than March one, 2016.”
It, however, had exempted passenger vehicles, ambulances and vehicles carrying essential commodities like foodstuff and oil tankers for Delhi from paying the ECC.
The court was hearing various pleas including a 1984 PIL filed by environmentalist MC Mehta on the issue.