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Cry for car pollution tax

New Delhi, Nov. 26: The Supreme Court has sought the opinion of the Centre on a proposal to levy a “compensation charge” on all four-wheelers in Delhi to curb pollution by discouraging the use of personal means of transport.

If the proposal — which has laid down specific figures — is accepted and enforced in the capital, it is certain to be widened to other states. However, most plans to restrain the use of diesel cars, which guzzle subsidised fuel meant for the poor, have been non-starters till now.

Senior counsel Harish Salve, who is assisting a special forest bench as amicus curiae, moved the application, which sought a one-time charge of 25 per cent on new diesel vehicles and annual levies of 4 per cent on existing diesel cars and 2 per cent on petrol four-wheelers in the national capital.

The one-time levy can be collected by dealers and the annual charge by insurance companies during renewals, the counsel said. If the one-time levy is allowed, owners of new diesel SUVs will have to cough up between Rs 1.25 lakh and Rs 15 lakh extra.

The special forest bench of Justices Aftab Alam, K.S. Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar sought the Centre’s response within four weeks.

“Only 2 per cent and 4 per cent? The figure seems to be low,” the bench said.

When the bench asked Salve about his mode of transport, the counsel replied: “Your lordship, I have both petrol and diesel vehicles.” But he hastened to add that he would pay the charge.

Salve told the court that around 1,400 new vehicles join the transport stream every day in Delhi alone. Pollution levels in the city have risen to “unhealthy levels”, he added.

“A strong disincentive to curb the growth of personal diesel cars is urgently needed,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, the executive director for air pollution research at the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.


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