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New Delhi: In another attempt to clean up Delhi’s foul air, the Supreme Court on Tuesday made it more difficult for commercial vehicles to pass through Delhi, instead of using alternative routes.

The apex court barred heavy commercial vehicles from entering Delhi from national highways 2 (Delhi-Kolkata), 10 (Punjab-Delhi) and 58 (Uttarakhand-Ghaziabad-Delhi) as well as state highway 57 (Baghpat-Ghaziabad-Delhi).

The Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi governments have been asked to identify and prescribe alternative routes for such traffic. The order is a follow-up to its 16 December ruling, wherein it stopped trucks coming on national highways 1 (Punjab-Haryana-Delhi) and 8 (Jaipur-Delhi) from passing through the city and banned the registration of luxury diesel vehicles with an engine capacity of 2,000cc and above.

The court sought an impact assessment of its earlier order. To this, lawyer Harish Salve, assisting the Supreme Court as amicus curiae (friend of court), pointed out that the order had resulted in a significant decline in the number of trucks entering the city. He quoted Delhi-based environmental think tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) to state that there had been a 19% reduction.

The bench comprising chief justice T.S. Thakur and justices A.K. Sikri and R. Banumathi also asked the government to file a response on how soon it could implement Bharat Standard (BS) VI emission norms, bypassing BS V.

Salve said that the oil ministry, in a May 2015 letter, was of the view that instead of going from BS IV to BS V and then BS VI (which is the Indian equivalent of the Euro VI norms), the government could consider directly upgrading to BS VI.

The government said it had planned on making BS IV applicable nationwide by 2017, BS V by 2019 and BS VI by 2020-21.

“The Supreme Court has given a very powerful message. It is a very strong intervention and a strong message for luxury diesel car manufacturers. By taking action against trucks, which are a serious source of pollution, it has showed that it is very serious about pollution from diesel sources," said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of CSE and head of its air pollution programme.

She added that the court seeking the government’s response to adopting BS IV standards nationwide and directly moving to BS VI was an important move.

Chief Justice Thakur also asked why the government should continue to use polluting vehicles. “Why should the government be a polluter? Cars older than 5 years or 10 years should be changed. Why should you be contributing to pollution," he asked solicitor general Ranjit Kumar.

Kumar, after seeking instructions from the government, told the court that the government would consider phasing out diesel vehicles older than 10 years and those cars which were BS III compliant would be considered for retrofitting with newer and cleaner technology. The government will file its response in writing at a later date.

On 20 January, the next date of hearing, the court will also hear auto makers’ plea for lifting the ban on registration of diesel vehicles above 2000cc engine capacity.

Auto makers Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, Mercedes-Benz India, Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd and Tata Motors Ltd had approached the court seeking a modification of its 16 December order.

The car companies said that luxury diesel vehicles with an engine capacity of over 2,000cc contributed barely 0.2% to pollution. They argued that 76% of vehicular pollution was caused by cars below 2,000cc engine capacity.

To this, the court observed that it was considering extending the ban on the registration of diesel cars to those with engine capacities below 2,000cc as well.

However, this aspect of the case will be dealt with on the next date of hearing.

The car manufacturers have been asked to submit documents in support of their argument that diesel cars are not polluting.

Modifying its 16 December order, the apex court extended its direction requiring taxi aggregators such as Ola and Uber to shift to CNG to all of the national capital region (NCR) and not just the national capital territory.

The court had a sop for owners of old diesel and petrol cars, who could not sell these cars outside NCR owing to an order of the National Green Tribunal.

The apex court said the owners of diesel cars older than 10 years and petrol cars older than 15 years could now apply to the Delhi government for a no-objection certificate to sell these vehicles outside the National Capital Region.

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