NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday banned from April 1 the sale and registration of vehicles that do not comply with Bharat Stage IV emission norms.
The bench upheld the deadline of March 31 for a phaseout of BS III emission norms.
Wednesday's order came as a setback to various automobile dealers and manufacturers who contended that the March 31 deadline only meant that there could be no more manufacture of BS III vehicles and but their sale and registration could continue.
But judges Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said the "health of the people is far far more important than the commercial interest of automobile manufacturers".
So BS-IV emission norms will now come into force from April 1, 2017.
The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) says automobile companies have an inventory of 8.24 lakh such vehicles including 96,000 commercial vehicles, over six lakh two-wheelers and around 40,000 three-wheelers.
Judges stay firm
But the judges said automobile manufacturers and dealers ought never to have gone ahead with the manufacture and stocking of BS III vehicles despite knowing that a ban was a definite possibility on the event horizon.
The manufacturers pleaded that when new emission technology was brought into force on two previous occasions, companies were allowed to continue marketing old-technology vehicles for a time.
India's auto industry switched to BS-II and BS-III in 2005 and 2010 respectively.
Judges lokur and Gupta said they wouldn't allow Big Auto to frustrate the efforts of the government to clean up the air in India. “The Centre has spent thousands of crores of rupees to upgrade technology to produce BS-IV fuel. The companies cannnot be allowed to frustrate the government’s initiative to check pollution levels,” they said.
The judges didn't buy SIAM's case because, as they pointed out, auto companies were fully aware that BS-IV would come into force from April but chose to sit back and added to their inventory of BS III vehicles.
Activists smile, auto leaders wince
Anti-pollution activists welcomed the decision. Sunita Narain, director-general of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) tweeted, "Huge decision by #SupremeCourt on #airpollution. Vehicle manufacturers told that they have to walk the extra mile for our right to health."
While industry figures took the blow on the chin, dealers winced. "It is going to be tragic for dealers as many of them still have a huge stock of BSII vehicles," John Paul, the president of the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations, was quoted as saying by BloombergQuint. "The impact is going to last for months to come. We have requested automakers to take back their stocks."