Volkswagen Emission: NGT should have awaited SC order, Supreme Court

Volkswagen Emission: NGT should have awaited SC order, Supreme Court

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today observed that there is no occasion for punitive action to be taken against the Directors of Volkswagen, since the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) order has been complied with.

The NGT had, in its order dated January 17, directed Volkswagen to comply with a previous order directing the company to deposit a sum of Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). On December 14, the Supreme Court had extended the time limit for the implementation of this order.

The Supreme Court was informed that despite its extension, the NGT had on January 17, directed that the sum be deposited within one day.

The Court observed that the NGT should not have passed this order when the matter was pending before the Supreme Court.

“We would like to clarify that the intent and purpose of this Court (Supreme Court) on December 14 extending the time for compliance of the directions (to pay the prescribed sum) was to ensure that until this Court hears the matter on the next date, coercive measures not to be adopted towards the appellants.

…The Tribunal should have awaited this Court’s order on deposit of the money.”

The Court was informed by Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Volkswagen, that a report by the committee constituted by the Tribunal to probe the concerns has now been submitted.

In that regard, the Court stated that the Tribunal will examine the merits of the findings of the report. Volkswagen has been given a period of three weeks to raise objections to the findings of the report.

While sending the case back to the Tribunal to be decided on merits, the Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta stated that the Tribunal can consider whether a similar probe can be undertaken against other vehicle manufacturers as well.

The matter stems from the 2015 emission scandal, wherein Volkswagen was found to have used ‘deceit devices’ in its vehicles which allowed the emission of the polluting Nitrous Oxide well over the prescribed pollution emission standards.

The same year, the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) found that the tested Volkswagen vehicles in India emitted pollutants five to nine times in excess of the permitted levels.

Subsequently, the NGT was approached by various private petitioners including schoolteacher Saloni Ailawadi, to ban vehicles by the German manufacturer, in view of its alleged violation of pollution control norms.

After hearing the matter at length, an NGT Bench headed by Chairperson AK Goel had, on November 16, 2018, directed Volkswagen to deposit an amount of Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) within a month.

Volkswagen challenged the NGT directions before the Supreme Court which extended the deadline. However, on January 17, the NGT had warned that it would order the arrest of the company’s directors if the deposit is not made by 5 pm the next day since the time period originally prescribed by NGT to pay up the said deposit expired on December 15, 2018.

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