The Supreme Court said on Monday diesel taxis with national permits could ply in Delhi until their permit expired but banned new registrations of such vehicles that provide pick-up and drop facilities in the Capital.
The order is a relief for commuters, who struggled with traffic snarls and protests after the top court’s April 30 order – that banned diesel taxis in Delhi to improve air quality – forced over 50,000 All India Tourist Permit (AITP) cabs off city roads.
“No new diesel taxis will be registered in Delhi. All registration of city taxis shall be permitted only if the vehicles operate on dual-fuel (CNG/Petrol), or purely CNG or petrol. We make it clear that no new diesel vehicles can be registered as city taxis,” a bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said.
The court said new AITP permits will be labelled ‘AITP-N’ and will not be allowed to provide point-to-point services in the NCR. Existing AITPs will be called ‘AITP-O’ for point-to-point services, such as the cabs used by BPO firms.
These taxis will have to follow government norms on safety, security and rate, the top court said. “Safety and security is an important aspect as you must have seen in some of the recent incidents,” the court said.
The decision will help the Rs 16.6 lakh crore business process outsourcing industry that has been crippled by the ban with thousands of employees unable to reach offices as most office cabs ran on diesel.
Industry body Nasscom approached the SC against the ban, saying it hurt the sector in the national capital region. Over half of the BPO industry’s revenues come from the NCR, where 250,000 people are employed in the sector.
Nasscom contended if the ban continued for six to nine months, the industry faced a potential loss of $1 billion.
The April 30 order – where the top court refused to extend the deadline for conversion of diesel cabs to CNG – also affected cab aggregators Uber and Ola that have 13,000 diesel taxis between them.
The order forced almost 50,000 commercial passenger cars off the roads.
Besides Nasscom, the Delhi government and Centre approached the SC with the Centre saying such bans were affecting the Make In India policy.
Nasscom assured the bench it will not enter into any future transport contracts with tourist permit-holders, until they are CNG- compliant.
The court adjourned the matter to the first week of July when it will take up the issue of imposition of pollution cess on purchase of diesel cars.
The order came after senior advocate Harish Salve, assisting the court in the matter, suggested modification in the December 2015 order banning diesel cabs.
Salve told the court that relaxing the ban on AITP permit-holders will place 64,000 cabs at Nasscom’s disposal. But the counsel said the Centre must change the rules to prohibit new AITP cabs from providing pick-up-and-drop service in the NCR.
Senior advocate Nidhesh Gupta, appearing for radio taxis, opposed any modification. He contended the AITP cabs were running illegally without complying with mandatory norms under the Delhi government’s taxi-service scheme.
The bench agreed with Gupta and ordered that taxis must comply with regulations. The court also asked the Centre to ensure AITP taxis were used only for BPO employees.
Solicitor general Ranjit Kumar argued that NCR-specific rules would be difficult to formulate, as AITP rules were meant for the whole country.