SC indicates ECC on diesel SUVs, luxury cars registration

New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday indicated that it may impose environment compensation charge (ECC) on registration of SUVs and luxury diesel cars in case it lifts its order banning registration of such vehicles with engine capacity of 2,000 cc and above in the National Capital Region.

A bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice A.K.Sikri and Justice R. Banumathi indicated this as it said that it could modify its December 16, 2015, order banning the registration of diesel cars with engine capacity of 2,000 cc and above to the extent that their registration would be accompanied with the ECC.

It meanwhile continued its December 16 order, banning registration of SUVs and private cars with 2,000 cc and above capacity using diesel as fuel.

The court also extended the order by one month till April 30, asking private diesel taxi owners to switch over to CNG.

In its December 16 order, the court, noting that diesel vehicles with higher engine capacity were more prone to cause higher levels of pollution, had justified the ban saying that these vehicles were used by more affluent sections of the society and a ban on their registration would not affect the common man.

Thursday’s indication that it may impose about 10 percent of the cost of the diesel vehicle as ECC at the time of their registration came as a number of senior lawyers appearing for different vehicle manufacturers and their association sought to impress upon the court that the perception that diesel vehicles were contributing more to the air pollution that the patrol run vehicles was misplaced.

“We are conscious of the fact that it will affect the companies. We are not targeting any company. It is your city (national capital). You have to step out and breathe,” Chief Justice Thakur said as some of the senior lawyers tried to resist the suggestion.

As senior counsel in unison urged the court to revisit its December 16 order, the court was unmoved, saying: “We can modify our order to the extent that let all cars be registered but on paying ECC.”

Holding that people using luxury diesel cars were not bothered about others, the court said: “Why should these (affluent people) pollute the city and pout other lives at risk.”

It then asked senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam appearing for Mercedes-Benz how much the basic model of the car being sold by them was costing.

On being told that it was in the range of Rs.45 lakh, Chief Justice Thakur said: “People who are buying your car would not mind paying another Rs.5 lakh. Instead of Rs.45 lakh they will pay Rs. 50 lakh.”

Another senior counsel said that though Innova and Tata Safari fell in the category of higher capacity diesel engine but then they were not luxury cars and were being used as taxis by the private operators.

As senior counsel pressed for lifting of the ban, the court said that it would decide the matter only after hearing them and said that such a daylong hearing could take place on any Saturday.

As different counsel consented to the suggestion to hold the hearing on Saturday, the court asked them to sit together to give a consolidated view on the issues they are seeking to raise.

Asking them to narrow down the area to be examined by it, the court asked the counsel to work out the five categories to be examined and said: “We will deal with each category.”

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