- Manufacturers wanted 7-8 months to sell existing stock of BS III vehicles
- Court rejects demand, BS III vehicles not to be registered from April 1
- BS IV engines reduce particulate emissions by 80 percent
The Centre had this week backed auto manufacturers, who pleaded they had unsold stock of about 8 lakh vehicles that meet the BS III emission norms. The companies had suggested the government deadline for 1 April 2017 was for stopping manufacture of BS III vehicles, and not their registration.
The manufacturers had also argued companies were allowed to sell their stocks with old emission norms when earlier versions of emission norms were introduced in 2005 and 2010.
But the top court brushed aside this argument, going by the Bhure Lal-headed Environment Protection Control Authority's report that BS IV vehicles had 80 per cent lower particulate emissions as compared to the previous version.
The seminal issue, the court said, was whether the commercial interests of manufacturers and dealers of vehicles takes primacy over the health hazard due to increased air pollution of millions of our country men and women. "The answer is quite obvious," Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta ruled.
The EPCA had also told the court that it told had manufacturers well in advance to ensure that all inventories were exhausted "so the country takes advantage of BS IV fuel which will be available from April 1".
The judges conceded that the number of unsold stock of BS III is small as compared to the total number of vehicles (19 crore), keeping in view of public health concerns, commercial interests are not important, the judges held "the health of the people is far, far more important".
But the judgment would take a heavy toll on vehicle manufacturers, already hit by a slowdown during November-December last year due to the old notes ban. According to one estimate, the government's notes ban decision had cost the industry revenue worth Rs 8,000 crore.
Wednesday's court verdict hit the two-wheeler sector the hardest. According to the data placed before the court, 6.7 lakh of the 8.25 lakh vehicles lying with dealers and companies were two-wheelers. Transport vehicles accounted for another 97,000 and cars, about 16,000.