The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court rap on autos, car fume checks

The green bench of Calcutta High Court has granted the state two months’ time to chalk out an action plan to slam the brakes on unauthorised three-wheelers. The government has also been asked to elaborate on how it intends to phase out old vehicles to combat air pollution caused by automobile emission.

The court was reacting to a report submitted by an expert committee, which conceded that problems were being created by three-wheelers and old vehicles plying in the city.

State advocate-general Balai Ray told the court that the government had taken several measures to check toxic levels of emission from vehicles, besides restricting the movement of unauthorised three-wheelers. Ray said the action plan would be submitted within the two-month deadline.

The committee, formed in 1999 on the basis of an order of the green bench, had in its terms of reference measures for phasing out old vehicles, a thorough testing of emission levels and stopping the plying of unauthorised vehicles, especially three-wheelers.

A host of lawyers and two judges of Calcutta High Court, including Chief Justice A.K. Mathur, discussed the problems of pollution on city streets. All admitted that the problem should be sorted out immediately, as the expert committee set up by the court had already suggested that the government should phase out old, polluting vehicles.

The advocate-general told the court that the government would face several hurdles while trying to do away with old vehicles. The chief justice then asked Ray why the government was not taking measures to make it mandatory for owners to instal automobile emission control devices in their vehicles.

Ray said the government was considering the issue seriously. “It must also be examined how far the problem can be resolved by introducing such devices. We will have to check the gadgets available in the market and determine their levels of efficiency first,” Ray added.

Both the chief justice and the advocate-general, however, admitted that the phasing-out formula could be applied only if the introduction of devices failed. Ray assured the court that his government would chalk out an action plan on the basis of the findings by the expert committee.

“The action plan will also include the solution of the current problems regarding automobile emission. We need more vigilance to ensure that the testing centres are doing their job honestly and whether their gadgets are calibrated properly,” Ray pointed out.

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