New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS) In a move aimed at reducing air pollution in the national capital, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Delhi government to issue a notification to levy ‘Environment Compensation Charge’ (ECC) for four months on experimental basis on commercial vehicles passing through Delhi.
Passenger vehicles and ambulances, vehicles carrying essential commodities like food and oil tankers entering Delhi would be exempted from the cess.
The court directions came as it accepted suggestions by amicus curiae Harish Salve, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar and senior counsel Dushyant Dave appearing for Delhi government that light duty vehicles and two-axle trucks be charged Rs.700 each while three- and four-axle trucks be charged Rs.1,300 as ECC on entering the national capital.
The court said the imposition of ECC for four months would be on experimental basis, adding that its order will override any order to the contrary by any authority.
The charges levied from November 1 till February 29, 2016, will be collected by tollbooth operators and handed over without any deduction to the Delhi government every Friday.
The amount so collected ought to be exclusively used for augmenting public transport and improving roads, particularly for most vulnerable users — that is, cyclists and pedestrians in Delhi.
The Delhi government shall furnish accounts of receipts and expenditure to the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control)) Authority and to the apex court. the court said in its order.
“The government of NCT Delhi may issue an appropriate notification to levy the aforesaid charge forthwith, which will be operative for a period of four months starting from November 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016 on an experimental basis. This order will override any order to the contrary by any authority,” said the bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel.
The court order came as it noted that about 23 percent of commercial vehicles and 40-60 percent heavy trucks entering the national capital were not destined for Delhi. The vehicles not destined for Delhi were avoiding alternative National Highway-71 and NH-71A connecting Rewari to Panipat via Jhajjar and Rohtak since they were toll roads.
The court imposed the ECC as it accepted the suggestion that apart from the MCD toll, it was necessary to impose ECC to equalise the difference in cost in travelling through alternative routes.
The court also said that Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan governments will provide large-sized billboards at exit points towards alternative highways to inform commercial traffic of the diversions.
The three state governments will take steps to ensure that commercial traffic with destinations other than Delhi used alternative routes. These governments will also ensure that in the course of the implementation of the apex court order, traffic jams and other inconvenience to the public were avoided.
Salve, who is amicus curiae in environmental matters, urged the court to levy ECC as commercial traffic travelling from north India towards Jaipur and other places was entering the national capital to save higher toll tax levied at available alternative routes.
The Supreme Court also noted the study commissioned by the Centre for Science and Environment, which said that commercial vehicles entering Delhi spew close to 30 percent of the total particulate load and 22 percent of the total nitrogen oxide load from the transport sector.
The court directed for listing of the matter in the third week of February 2016 for further consideration and review of the mechanism sought to put in place.