NEW DELHI: BS-VI fuel would be available by April 1, 2019 in 17 out of 23 districts in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Agra, the Centre told the Supreme Court today.
The government also said that reducing the price gap between petrol and diesel would not be "economically viable" and would lead to inflation.
Maintaining that it was not possible to change the pricing structure of diesel since the maximum basic excise duty was already levied on it, the Centre told a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta that a change in this might have other repercussions, besides a "cascading effect" on inflation as the entire transport sector would be affected.
Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the court that as far as 12 other metropolitan cities were concerned, it was not possible to make BS-VI fuel available there by April 1, 2019, but all attempts would be made to make it available there by April 1, 2020.
Advocate Aparajita Singh, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, told the bench that compensatory cess levied on diesel vehicles by the apex court has to be re-considered and it might have to be increased.
The court had in August 2016 lifted the ban on registration of diesel vehicles in the Delhi-NCR having an engine capacity of above 2000cc while levying one per cent cess on it.
During the hearing, the bench said the issue related to whether to increase the environmental cess on diesel vehicles would be dealt with by it on July 13.
At the outset, the amicus referred to the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) and said the issue related to availability of BS-VI fuel in NCR.
Nadkarni then read out the contents of MoPNG's affidavit and said that BS-VI fuel would be made available in 17 out of 23 districts of NCR by April 1 next year besides two adjoining areas of Karauli and Dhaulpur in Rajasthan.
He said in six districts of Haryana, including Bhiwadi, Rohtak, Jind and Panipat, it would not be made available by April 1, 2019.
As far as other 12 metropolitan cities, including Kolkata, were concerned, it would not be feasible to advance the date from April 1, 2020 for lack of availability of BS-VI fuel.
Nadkarni also said engines of the existing vehicles have to be retrofitted with catalytic convertors, an exhaust emission control device, as per the BS-VI fuel.
He also referred to an affidavit to be filed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on the price differential between petrol and diesel.
"The scope for increasing it (price of diesel) is hardly available," he said, adding, "it will lead to inflation. It is not found economically viable unless a detailed study is done".
The amicus told the court that the main issue was diesel as only negligible amount of particulate matter (PM) was emitted from petrol vehicles.
If the government was incentivising diesel, then it was a problem, she said.
"Rs 80,000 crore was invested by the government in introducing BS-VI fuel. The crux of the problem is diesel. Even if BS-IV petrol was allowed after April 1, 2019, it was not a problem since the culprit is diesel," amicus Aparajita Singh said.
She also contended that diesel vehicles should be banned till the time BS-VI fuel was made available and the compensatory cess should be hiked on diesel vehicles having an engine capacity of 2000cc and above, as citizens should not be allowed to suffer due to pollution.
However, Nadkarni referred to the cumulative increase in prices of petrol and diesel from September 2013 to October 2017 and said while for petrol it was two-fold, it was fourfold for diesel.
The bench also said it would not look into the issue of pricing of diesel and petrol.
Meanwhile, the counsel appearing for car manufacturers association said that India has taken only three years to switch from BS-IV to BS-VI fuel and questioned as to why the date of April 1, 2020 was preponed to April 1, 2019 when BS-VI fuel would only be made available in NCR.
When the lawyer referred to the issue of compensatory cess on diesel vehicles, the bench said, "this part we will take up in July".
The bench was also informed that in remaining NCR districts of Haryana, including Gurugram, BS-VI would be made available from October 2019.
The apex court had earlier asked the Centre to look into the possibility of rolling out the BS-VI fuel in 13 metro cities by April 2019.
On February 21, the Centre had informed the apex court that it will introduce BS-VI fuel in Delhi by April 1 this year.
BS-VI emission standard was scheduled to come into force from April 1, 2020, across the country.
The top court had in March last year banned the sale and registration of vehicles, which were not BS-IV compliant, in India from April 1, 2017, when the new emission norms came into force.
It had observed that the health of people was "far, far more important than the commercial interests" of the manufacturers.