Invalid PUC should lead to suspension of RC, says SC
Vehicles that do not possess Pollution under Control (PUC) certificates should face immediate suspension or cancellation of registration certificates (RC), the Supreme Court ordered on Friday, stressing on one of multiple punishments that can be handed out in the interest of the environment.
The decision came on an appeal filed by the Madhya Pradesh government, which challenged a decision of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Central Zone, Bhopal that on April 21, 2015 ordered that vehicles without a valid PUC were to face “forthwith suspension and revocation” of RC and denied fuel.
The bench upheld the suspension order but struck down the NGT’s rule of denying fuel to a violator of the rule. “The Registration Certificate of vehicles which do not possess a valid PUC Certificate shall be forthwith suspended and/or cancelled, and penal measures initiated against the owner or person in possession or control of the offending vehicle, in accordance with law,” said the order by a bench of justices Arun Mishra and Indira Banerjee. The judges cited rules 115 and 116 of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules of 1989 (Rules), which lays down emission standards and the punishments for owners of vehicles that do not conform to those yardsticks. The rules, in addition to the suspension, also provide for imprisonment for a term extending upto six months and/or a fine up to Rs 10,000. The driver is also liable for disqualification of their licence for three months.
In August, 2015 when the MP government first challenged the NGT’s order on the fuel ban, the tribunal directed the state to make a deposit of Rs 25 crore within a week.
The top court held that the NGT erred in passing both the directions. “Vehicles not complying with the requirement of possessing and/or displaying a valid PUC certificate cannot be debarred from being supplied fuel,” said the order.
This Supreme Court said the NGT was not in a position to make such a rule either under the 1989 Central Motor Vehicle Rules or the NGT Act.
The judges noted, “There can be no doubt that strong measures must be taken to protect the environment and improve the air quality whenever there is contravention of statutory rules causing environmental pollution. Stringent action has to be taken, but in accordance with law.”
Moreover, the court noted that if fuel is not supplied to offending vehicles, it cannot be repaired or tested for compliance for issuance of fresh PUC certificate. The court also set aside the order pertaining to deposit of ₹25 crore, saying: “The Tribunal had no power or authority or jurisdiction to direct the State to deposit ₹25 crores to secure compliance with its order.” The NGT had passed the order on a petition filed by NGO Centre for Environment Protection, Research and Development which raised concern over the degrading air quality and lack of stringent measures to enforce punishment under the Motor Vehicles against polluting vehicles.