Levy pollution tax from Nov 1: Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: In a move to check high level of air pollution in the capital, the Supreme Court on Monday formally imposed Environment Compensation Charge on vehicles entering Delhi from November 1. Heavy trucks would have to pay Rs 1,300 and light commericial vehicles Rs 700, in addition to the toll tax for entering the city.

A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justices Arun Mishra and Adarsh Kumar Goel directed that the charge be levied on the vehicles on an experimental basis for four months till February 29, 2016 and directed the Delhi government to issue a notification.

The bench noted that 23% of commercial vehicles and 40-60% of heavy trucks entering Delhi were not destined for the capital and took the route only to save toll. It said the commercial vehicles must be discouraged to pass through the city.

According to a study conducted by Centre for Science and Environment, commercial vehicles entering Delhi spew close to 30% of the total particulate load and 22% of the total nitrogen oxide load from the transport sector.

“It has been pointed out that even though alternative routes are available, such traffic enters Delhi to save on tollhigher rate of toll tax in taking such alternative routes. In the process, pollution caused by such traffic inflicts heavy cost on the health of the residents of Delhi. To tackle this situation, an Environment Compensation Charge may be required to be imposed on all light and heavy duty commercial vehicles,” it said.

The bench, however, clarified that ambulances and vehicles carrying passengers and essential commodities like food stuff and oil tankers would be exempted from paying the cess. It directed that the charges would be collected by the toll operators and the amount handed over to the Delhi government every Friday.

It also asked the government to furnish accounts of the receipts and expenditure to SC every quarter.

The court also directed the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan to take effective steps to ensure that commercial vehicles, which are not destined to come to Delhi, take alternative routes of the national highway connecting Rewari to Panipat via Jhajjar and Rohtak. It also directed the NCT government to install CCTV cameras at nine entry points to oversee collection of ECC.

“The government of NCT Delhi may issue an appropriate notification to levy the charge which will operative for a period of four months starting from Novemner 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016 on an experimental basis,” the court said.

This is the second most significant anti-pollution intervention on the part of the apex court to improve air quality in the national capital after 1998, when it had directed conversion of the entire transport fleet of the city- buses, taxis, auto-rickshaws and trucks – to switch to cleaner CNG fuel.

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