SC pulls up law ministry for sitting on plan for fuel stickers on private cars

According to the advocate assisting the SC in the matter, the law ministry officials had not taken a decision on MORTH’s proposal since August 13, when the transport ministry had received the top court’s approval for the plan.

india Updated: Nov 29, 2018 13:08 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
EPCA,delhi pollution,hologram-based stickers
The SC was told that the failure to clear the surface transport ministry’s file is one of the reasons why the Environment Protection Control Authority (EPCA) could not stop private diesel vehicles from plying in Delhi when pollution levels reached the ‘severe’ category. (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

The Supreme Court has sought an explanation from the Union ministry of law for sitting on a proposal of the road and surface transport and highway ministry (MORTH). The proposal is for putting colour hologram-based stickers on private cars to identify the fuel they use and the year of manufacture.

Taking strong exception to the law ministry’s delay in clearing the proposal, a bench led by Justice MB Lokur, while hearing a matter related to Delhi pollution, remarked: “Judicial activism is one thing but executive in-activism is also one thing.”

The remarks came after advocate Aparajita Singh, who is assisting the court in the matter, said it was shocking to see how law ministry officials had not taken a decision on MORTH’s proposal since August 13, when the transport ministry had received the top court’s approval for the plan. She said MORTH had amended its rules and forwarded them to the law ministry on the same day.

“It’s disappointing how the law ministry has just not bothered to move the file. They are still vetting the file. On one hand, the ministry of road and transport shows alacrity in dealing with alarming pollution levels that choke Delhi and on the other, there is the law ministry that has failed our collaborative efforts to take such steps,” Singh said.

The failure to clear this file is one of the reasons why the Environment Protection Control Authority (EPCA) could not stop private diesel vehicles from plying in Delhi when pollution levels reached the ‘severe’ category.

“If these stickers were there, it would have been easy for EPCA to hold back diesel cars. At least during the severe crisis, they could have moved the file,” she submitted.

Additional solicitor general AS Nadkarni, who is representing the Centre in the case, admitted to the delay and said the SC order had to be complied in earnest.

The road ministry, he told the court, had amended rules immediately and issued a notification, directing the state governments to comply with the top court’s direction on stickers. He assured the court to revert on Thursday with a positive assurance that the law ministry would clear the amended rules.

Singh commended MORTH for framing a “fantastic piece of legislation.”

She said it was painful to see that when pollution reached the ‘severe’ category, construction activity was banned, putting a burden on daily wagers. “The daily wagers lose their livelihood while we clearly know 40% pollution is vehicular in the Capital,” she contended.

Light blue stickers have been earmarked for petrol- and compressed natural gas (CNG)-based cars and orange for diesel vehicles.

“After introduction of coloured stickers, the use of more polluting vehicles can be restricted in a congested or a polluted zone temporarily or permanently depending on the pollution level. This decision should be taken by the local authority based on Air Quality Index of the area,” the ministry had submitted in its affidavit.

First Published: Nov 29, 2018 13:08 IST