NEW DELHI: India cannot afford to fall back further even by a day in introducing the BS-VI emission norms as its pollution levels are "alarming" and it urgently needs to move to a cleaner fuel.
The top court, which said that no Bharat Stage-IV vehicle would be sold or registered in India from April 1, 2020, noted that Europe had introduced Euro-VI norms way back in 2015.
Bharat Stage standards are instituted by the government to regulate output of air pollutants from motor vehicles and BS-IV norms had been enforced across the country from April 2017.
"Europe introduced Euro IV fuel in the year 2009 and Euro VI standards in 2015. We are already many years behind them. We cannot afford to fall back further even by a single day," said a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta.
The apex court's order came while deciding whether grace period should be given to the automobile manufacturers for the sale of BS-VI non-compliant vehicles after April 1, 2020.
Referring to the situation of pollution in the country, the bench said: "The pollution in Gwalior, Raipur and Allahabad is worse than Delhi. The situation is alarming and critical. It brooks no delay."
The bench termed as "heartening" that the Centre, being concerned with the health of citizens and also taking note of the urgent need for a clean environment, has taken steps to manufacture cleaner fuel.
In noted that the Centre has spent about Rs 30,000 crore to manufacture BS-IV compliant fuel and another Rs 30,000 crore have been expended to ensure that the fuel available in the country was BS-VI compliant.
The bench also dealt with the arguments advanced by Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) which had contended that there were multiple sources of pollution and vehicles only contribute up to only 2 per cent of that.
"We are not in agreement with this submission because the report of the committee to which we have adverted hereinabove states that contribution of vehicles to ambient PM 2.5 concentration during winter season is 25 per cent and in the summer season it contributes 9 per cent," the bench noted.
It said: "Even if we were to accept the figures submitted by SIAM, we are of the view that no step is too small when it comes to fighting pollution. Small steps to reduce pollution when taken together will lead to large scale reduction in pollution which will result in much cleaner air, which eventually will result in a cleaner and better environment, healthier citizens and most importantly a healthier generation to come."
The bench also noted that though the SIAM was canvassing before it that shift to BS-VI compliant vehicles was a long drawn out process requiring huge changes in technology, the very same automobile manufacturers were selling and exporting BS-VI compliant vehicles to Europe and other countries.
Referring to media reports, the bench said it was apparent that Eicher was already manufacturing trucks and buses which are not only BS-VI compliant but BS-VI CNG compliant.
"Another manufacturer of heavy vehicles i.e Ashok Leyland had, in August, 2018 through its subsidiary Optare obtained an order to manufacture the world's first electric double decker buses. The technology needed to manufacture such electric buses is much more advanced and difficult as compared to the technological changes required to manufacture petrol and diesel vehicles which are BSVI compliant," it noted.
It also said that TVS Motors had in August issued a press note that it would be manufacturing BS-VI compliant vehicles much ahead of the deadline of 2020.
The bench said that BS-VI fuel has already been made available in the national capital territory (NCT) of Delhi from April 1, 2018 and barring a few places, it would be available in the entire national capital region from April 1 next year.
"It will probably be available in many parts of the country prior to April 1, 2020 and the entire country will shift to BS-VI fuel from April 1, 2020," it said.
"Obviously, the manufacture of clean fuel is being done in a phased manner because all the refineries cannot simultaneously start manufacturing clean fuel," it said, adding, "It is not as if on April 1, 2020 just by waving a magic wand the entire country will change to BS-VI compliant norms".