If on Wednesday, diversion seemed to be the name of the auto-fuel game, the day after saw the clean-air debate being further watered down, this time by oil companies.
The court order asking them to submit an affidavit regarding fuel quality failed to ignite trouble on Thursday, with the major players insisting that all they needed to do was produce information 'already in the public domain' for the past two years.
Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum, Hindustan Petroleum and IBP were unanimous in the claim that since 2002, they had been producing and supplying petrol and diesel conforming to specifications laid down by Bharat Stage (BS) II norms.
Calcutta High Court on Wednesday had, in an effort to get to 'the basics of the (vehicular pollution) problem', asked the oil companies to file affidavits by January 12 on the quality of oil supplied to petrol pumps, with the focus on sulphur and benzene content.
'We have upgraded and modernised our oil refinery at Haldia to produce fuel which meets BS II emission norms,' said Gautam Datta, general manager of Indian Oil Corporation. 'This is the oil that we have been supplying to petrol stations in the city.'
Officials expressed surprise over why the oil companies had been asked to produce details of fuel quality when they have been abiding by the standards set by the national auto-fuel policy for so long.
Kalyan Roy, officer on special duty, Hindustan Petroleum, said: 'We have upgraded our production facilities to match BS II requirements.'
Deputy general manager of Bharat Petroleum A.S. Bhatia added: 'You can test samples of our oil and you will find it is in conformity with BS II specifications. This is no secret.'
Indian Oil Corporation's Datta, who is also coordinator for all four oil companies in this matter, took the BS II argument a step further: 'We are, in fact, going to shift to specifications for BS III emission norms by next year.' All this will be presented before the court on January 12.
However, the vital aspect of fuel adulteration ' raised by the court-appointed expert panel in 2000 ' has been sidelined. 'This must be addressed at once,' said Subhas Dutta, amicus curae in the auto emission case.