Odd-even mere optics, says SC; Delhi govt waits for order to spell scheme rules
The apex court’s observations came on a day the Delhi government had planned to announce details of the implementation of the scheme, including exemptions and penalties to be imposed
A day after the Delhi government announced that it would roll out the odd-even scheme to curb vehicular emissions, the Supreme Court on Tuesday termed the scheme as “optics” even as it questioned its efficacy and success in the past in reducing the dangerously high pollution levels in the national capital.
It also sought response of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government by Friday on alternative ways the court suggested to reduce vehicular pollution.
The apex court’s observations came on a day the Delhi government had planned to announce details of the implementation of the scheme, including exemptions and penalties to be imposed. However, following the SC’s directions on Tuesday, Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai said that they will wait for the court’s written orders based on which a decision on the implementation of the scheme will be taken.
The government had announced on Monday that the vehicle rationing scheme will be rolled for a week on November 13 in a bid to tackle the ongoing pollution crisis.
On Tuesday, a bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia, sounding rather unimpressed by the plan, said, “Has the odd-even scheme been successful (in the past)?. These are all optics.” Delhi has seen three previous stints of the odd-even scheme being implemented in 2016, 2017 and 2019.
The court’s view was shared by amicus curiae Aparajita Singh, who termed the scheme unscientific and referred to an order passed by the top court on December 2 last year, directing Delhi and its adjacent states to implement the colour coding scheme. It essentially involved coding vehicles based on their fuel type for easy identification. For instance, diesel-run private vehicles had an orange tag and blue tag for petrol-run vehicles.
Singh informed the court that while Delhi has fully implemented the colour-coding scheme, other states have not reported compliance. “Colour-coding can be used to take orange-tagged vehicles off the road. Implementing odd even is unscientific based on the numberplate,” she said, prompting the court to seek the government’s response on the same by Friday.
It also asked the Delhi government to consider another suggestion of keeping app-based taxis registered outside Delhi off the roads amid the pollution crisis. “The state may respond if there is any way of monitoring during this period of time that taxis registered in Delhi alone are permitted to ply.” The court also directed Delhi to indicate the amount collected from vehicles so far as environment compensation charge (ECC) and status of its utilisation.
In a meeting held after the court’s orders, Delhi minister Rai said, “We held a meeting today with officials from the traffic police, transport and environment departments where how to implement the odd-even scheme was discussed. However, we will make any further strategies or announcement only after we have carefully studied the SC order.”
Transport minister Kailash Gahlot also directed the department to ensure no polluting vehicle enters Delhi from other states even as a ban is in place on non- BS VI vehicles. “However, it has come to my notice that polluting vehicles are entering Delhi borders at odd hours from neighbouring states without any hindrance. It appears that no checking is being done... to restrict entry of such polluting vehicles...,” stated the minister’s order.
Meanwhile, the office of lieutenant governor VK Saxena alleged that Rai has not approved on paper the decision to implement the odd-even scheme, and the announcement made on Monday is an attempt to divert attention of people and courts from the pollution crisis.
Referring to a file the LG office received from the chief minister on November 4 regarding the measures to be taken to check pollution, the LG officials said, “The file... clearly shows that the decision to implement odd-even scheme... was not approved by minister Gopal Rai.”