The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll plea for Bharat II pause

The transport lobby has latched on to its latest escape hatch from Bharat Stage II — elections.

Within hours of the Election Commission announcing the Lok Sabha poll dates, the wheels of Pushback Bharat II started turning frenetically in the state transport department. The election dates, felt officials, could be used as “logical” devices of deferment of the Bharat II deadline in the Calcutta Metropolitan Area.

Calcutta High Court had set April 2 as the date for implementing the Bharat II norms. That was about a year ago. Ever since, the government has been throwing up one excuse after another.

With the announcement of the poll dates, lawyers involved in drafting the petition for deferment seem to have “found a case”.

Sources close to the lawyers said they will now plead before the court that Bharat II implementation be put off because the state transport department has a “major role to play” in the elections.

So, it will be “impossible” for the government to handle implementation of the pollution norms at this critical juncture.

“There is a very compelling logic in this,” said a lawyer involved with the drafting of the petition. “Large sections of state government employees will be involved in the poll process and the transport department will have a critical role to play. We do hope that the court will listen to our plea for deferring the April deadline.”

Mixing technical hitches with electoral hurdles, the state government will also plead that since there are no tail-pipe emission standards for Bharat II — that will be set by the Centre in September — the court grant it time till then to implement the emission norms.

The legal think-tank stitching the case together, apparently, feels that the technical clause may not be enough to convince the court about the plea.

The run-up to the elections, lawyers feel, would be a far more “concrete” pushback plank.

State transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, however, refused to comment on the poll angle. “We shall seek deferment of the implementation of the Bharat II norms on technical grounds. Beyond this, I would not like to say anything at the moment,” was the word from the minister on Tuesday.

The state government, meanwhile, has slipped up on another transport-related directive issued by the high court.

Last year, the court had directed the government to stop the plying of unauthorised auto-rickshaws in Calcutta by January 31, 2004. Little effort has been made till now to slam the brakes on these unauthorised three-wheelers.

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