Can’t duck responsibility: NGT’s message in Rs 100 crore fine order on Volkswagen
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Can’t duck responsibility: NGT’s message in Rs 100 crore fine order on Volkswagen

Asserting that the Volkswagen complied with emissions norms defined in India, a group spokesperson said it will challenge the NGT order.

india Updated: Nov 26, 2018 22:57 IST
Jayashree Nandi
Jayashree Nandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Volkswagen,Volkswagen India,Rs100 crore
An NGT bench headed by chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel invoked the “polluter pays” and “precautionary principle” to compensate the environmental damages caused by Volkswagen vehicles which didn’t meet emissions criteria.(Reuters File Photo)

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed Volkswagen India Private Limited to deposit a sum of Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) within a month for installing ‘deceit devices’ — software that does not reflect the real level of emissions — in their cars.

An NGT bench headed by chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel invoked the “polluter pays” and “precautionary principle” to compensate the environmental damages caused by Volkswagen vehicles which didn’t meet emissions criteria.

Asserting that the Volkswagen complied with emissions norms defined in India, a group spokesperson said it will challenge the NGT order.

The order, pronounced orally on November 16 and published on the NGT website on Saturday, states that it’s an interim order, awaiting an expert evaluation of the environmental damage caused by the auto manufacturer.

The ministry of heavy industries had submitted in an affidavit that the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) was asked to assess if Volkswagen cars in India had installed cheat devices in their cars.

This was following trials in the US that showed Volkswagen had installed a software in their cars which allowed them to fudge results during lab tests to check compliance with emission norms.

ARAI had found that on-road oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions from the Volkswagen vehicles tested were 5-9 times higher compared to tests carried out in laboratory.

“In view of these results, the ministry of heavy industries directed the Volkswagen to initiate vehicle recall. Accordingly, Volkswagen informed that they would recall 3.2 lakh vehicles and modify software or hardware after approval of the authorities,” the order said.

About 60-64% of the 3.2 lakh vehicles have been recalled so far according to the order.

Volkswagen, however, claimed that they had agreed to recall only those vehicles with diesel (EA 189) engines manufactured between 2008 and 2015, which were tested by ARAI and not of other models.

Volkswagen had also submitted to the NGT that it didn’t matter what recall or remediation action the company had taken in other countries since the emission standards in India were different from other countries, which have stricter emission standards.

But the NGT bench didn’t accept Volkswagen’s arguments. “Even though the standards may be stricter in other countries, the very fact of deceit devices being installed by the manufacturers calls for an inference of prima-facie violation of environment. Even if there is 100% recall, for the past violation of norms, the manufacturer cannot avoid responsibility,” the order said.

“It is difficult, prima-facie, to accept the stand of the manufacturer that it has not caused any damage to the environment in India. The manufacturers themselves have accepted the direction for recall. Though they have chosen to describe the recall as voluntary, it is in pursuance of the direction of the ministry of heavy industries, government of India,” the bench said.

NGT also constituted a joint team of representatives of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Ministry of Heavy Industries, ARAI and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to examine the report of ARAI and give its expert opinion on whether the manufacturers have exceeded the prescribed environmental norms and fair estimate of the damage caused to the environment, after considering the reply of the manufacturer.

“Though at this stage we are not assessing the exact amount of liability, having regard to the amount of damages which are to be paid in the other countries and the worth of the company, the liability does not appear to be less than Rs 100 crores by even a conservative estimate. The CPCB will be the nodal agency to comply with our directions,” the order said.

Volkswagen had filed an affidavit in NGT on the status of how they are dealing with the case in other countries. The total contingent liability of Volkswagen on the diesel issue was €4.3 billion, NGT’s order stated.

First Published: Nov 26, 2018 22:07 IST