HC muscle for auto clean-up

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By OUR BUREAU in Calcutta
  • Published 18.07.08

Calcutta, July 18: Calcutta High Court today converted an environment department notification into a judicial directive that makes it mandatory for the government to fight air pollution.

The court has banned commercial vehicles registered before January 1, 1993, from Calcutta and its outskirts. All autorickshaws, irrespective of their date of registration, will have to convert to either compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

The deadline for the conversion and the ban is March 31 next year in areas falling within the Calcutta corporation. By December 31, 2009, the order should be implemented in the Calcutta Metropolitan Area that includes parts of North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly.

“The motor vehicles department should not renew their licences and permits after the expiry of the stipulated time,” said a division bench of Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice P.C. Ghosh.

The record of the Bengal government in implementing its own notifications is dismal, especially in public transport where a well-oiled syndicate has repeatedly thwarted any attempt to clean up the system. The Telegraph had published a series of reports exposing the toxic network.

The difference this time is the court has given judicial teeth to the July 17 notification. When Subhash Dutta, who moved the court against automobile pollution, said the government had withdrawn an earlier notification to fight pollution, the bench said: “We are treating the notification (submitted by the environment department) as part of our order.”

Dutta later said: “By making the notification an order, the court has bound the government to implement it.”

If the government implements the order, around 80,000 autorickshaws, 24,000 taxis and over 8,000 buses and minibuses could be affected.

The court directed the government to constitute a panel with experts from Jadavpur University and IIT Kharagpur to monitor the implementation of the order. It asked police to seize unauthorised autorickshaws and stop trade in adulterated oil (katatel).

Check centres that give certificates to polluting vehicles will be fined Rs 25,000. So far, only the licence was cancelled — a painless penalty as it is easy to be back in business under a new name.