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Tail-pipe talk defers Bharat II verdict

Forget Bharat Stage II, it’s only the tail-pipe emission that matters.

The state government and several transporters’ lobbies confronted Calcutta High Court with this argument on Monday, trying to divert the judiciary’s focus from ‘mission impossible’ (implementation of BS II norms by April 2) to a more achievable target.

The Centre has already notified the limits of tail-pipe emission that must be met by October 1 this year, lawyers representing the government and the transporters said on Monday.

If vehicles — irrespective of age — meet those emission standards, they could not be stopped from hitting the streets anywhere in the country, the lawyers argued.

Faced by the fact that only tail-pipe emission could measure environmental damage being inflicted by a vehicle, the division bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice A.K. Bannerjee, reserved its verdict till Tuesday.

But that did not stop the division bench from hauling up the state government for its go-slow in implementing rules that would give Calcutta cleaner air to breathe.

The court had given the government a year’s time, from April 3, 2003, to ensure that all private and commercial vehicles conform to BS II norms.

Older cars would have to change their engines or switch to CNG or LPG, it had added.

But with the one-year deadline about to end and the state government unable to show anything for its efforts, the division bench made its displeasure known.

State advocate-general Balai Ray tried to plead for more time to make people aware about the changes.

Also, time was required to prevent a collapse of the entire traffic system and all-round chaos, he added.

But the judges asked Ray what the government had done to educate the people and observed that it was the media — with its persistent campaign — that was trying to do the state government’s job.

“We have been hearing you stalling for time for the last one year,” the bench told Ray.

Besides, Delhi and Mumbai, too, had gone through a few days of chaos when BS II norms were implemented there, the bench added. “They managed all right,” the judges remarked. “Then why can’t you'”

After all, it would all be in the interests of a crore of people either living in or coming into the city every day, the bench felt.

“There may be many problems and difficulties in implementing this order, but we must know that the line has to be drawn somewhere,” the judges observed.

“If a change of engine is not possible within the time-frame set by us, then ask the cars (with old engines) to get out of the city,” they added.

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