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'Air pollution adversely affects health,' SC tells Centre to frame policy on phasing out heavy duty diesel vehicles [Read Judgment]

By LAWSTREET NEWS NETWORK      12 January, 2024 04:19 PM      0 Comments
*'Air pollution adversely affects health,' SC tells Centre to frame policy on phasing out heavy duty diesel vehicles [Read Judgment]*

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to frame a policy within six months to replace heavy duty diesel vehicles such as trucks and trailers with those BS VI, which are run on clean fuels, holding that air pollution adversely affected health guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The court also emphasised air pollution affects citizens' quality of life.

A bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Pankaj Mithal said that the issue of air pollution is of a great deal of importance to every citizen as it asked the Union government's Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to continue exploring the possibility of finding better sources, including CNG, Hybrid or Electric, for the use of heavy duty vehicles.

The court noted the issue is more significant in the context of the severe air pollution faced by Delhi NCT and Delhi NCR areas during the last few years.  

"For the last few months, the air quality index in the said areas has been in the category of very unhealthy or hazardous," it said.

The court passed its directions in an appeal by the Container Corporation of India Ltd against the National Green Tribunal's March 8, 2019 orders to ensure that diesel vehicles stop visiting the Inland Container Depot (ICD) at Tughlakabad in Delhi and shift to electric, hybrid and CNG vehicles in phased manner.  

In its judgement, the bench, however, said the orders passed by the NGT were "totally unjustified and unwarranted observations" in restricting diesel vehicles in the national capital to control the air pollution as if people living here are entitled to pollution free environment and not those living in other parts of the country.

The bench said, "Such an observation by the NGT is in complete ignorance of the fact that citizens living in other parts of the country other than Delhi NCR also have a fundamental right to a pollution free environment as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India."

The bench that such a fundamental right is equally enforceable by all and is not confined to the people of Delhi NCR.  

"The NGT while protecting/safeguarding the fundamental right of the people of Delhi NCR cannot allow infringement of the same fundamental right of the citizens living outside Delhi NCR. The observation of the NGT is totally unjustified and unwarranted," the bench said.

The NGT had directed that the entry of diesel vehicles should be shifted to the satellite terminals (ICDs) at Dadri, Rewari, Ballabhgarh, Khatuawas or any other ICD around Delhi.

The court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) examined the issues.

The bench accepted its recommendations as the Union government also in principle agreed to the report.

The court decided to the monitor the implementation of its order and posted the matter for consideration on July 31, 2024.

"The issue of pollution, particularly air pollution, has been a cause of concern for the last few decades. Air pollution directly affects the fundamental rights of the citizens guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The right to life guaranteed under Article 21 includes the right to live in a pollution free environment. The issue of air pollution is of a great deal of importance to every citizen. Air pollution affects citizens' quality of life. It adversely affects health," the bench said.

The court also directed the appellant to implement within six months the recommendations made by KPMG in February 2021 for improving the parking management of vehicles in the said ICD.

 

[Read Judgment]



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