SC baffled over green court’s instant order on Delhi’s Toxicant trucks

Truckers pass through by road in New Delhi on Tuesday Oct 6,2015.

The Supreme Court was to pass similar directions on Thursday and had summoned counsels representing the Centre – Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, Delhi govt and MCD.

truck-story_647_100515110548Wednesday’s sweeping orders passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), banning the entry of trucks inside the Capital not destined for Delhi, and imposing a heavy pollution tax ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 on those plying through the city, have apparently stumped the Supreme Court.
The reason – the Supreme Court was to pass similar directions on Thursday and had summoned counsels representing the Centre – Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, the Delhi government and the MCD.

A surprised bench of chief justice HL Dattu and justices Arun Mishra and Adarsh Kumar Goel asked the NGT to provide a copy of the order passed to “have a look at ” before issuing any further directions on the issue so that “there is no duplication”. “At the same time we may also add further”, it said.
Adding to the confusion, senior advocate Harish Salve, the amicus curiae, who is assisting the court, and another senior lawyer Dushyant Dave who appeared for the Delhi government questioned the jurisdiction of the NGT to pass such orders.
“The NGT’s jurisdiction is under question. They have nothing… no powers to pass such directions…Only your lordships can pass an order”, Salve told the bench.
Talking to Mail Today, Dave said, “Once it knew that the apex court is seized with the issue and is set to pass directions on Thursday, the NGT should have refrained from passing any order. additional, it also doesn’t have the power to issue such general directions. As per section 14 of the NGT Act, it can only entertain civil cases where a substantial question relating to environment is involved”.

The bench adjourned the matter for Friday and said the signed copy of the NGT’s order would be circulated to all the parties before it took up the hearing.
Meanwhile, the Solicitor General appearing for the Centre and the Delhi government told the bench that it favoured imposition of stiff pollution compensation tax on the trucks crossing Delhi enroute to other states.

It all began on Monday, when the CJI noting that Delhi’s pollution levels had touched alarming heights and even his grandson had begun wearing a mask, favoured imposition of pollution compensation tax on nearly 60,000 vehicles that pass through the national Capital.
This was suggested by Salve after going through a report of the SC-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA).

Most of these trucks coming from outside and bound for some other states enter Delhi as a transit route to save heavy toll which is charged on alternative routes.

“For a three-axle commercial vehicle and above passing through Delhi a charge of Rs 1,200 should be levied in addition to the charge they pay as toll to the municipal corporation. Trucks of two-axle and light commercial vehicles should pay an additional Rs 600 under the ‘polluter pays’ principle,” Salve told the court, which is hearing a PIL filed in 1985 by environmentalist MC Mehta.

Salve said Delhi’s ambient air quality most of the time stood above the danger mark, a situation which in foreign countries lead to closure of schools and stoppage of traffic till the pollution level comes back to normal.