The Supreme Court on Wednesday barred sale of vehicles compliant with Bharat Stage-III (BS-III) emission norms beyond 31 March, in a blow to automakers which are saddled with an inventory of nearly 8 lakh such two-wheelers, trucks and cars.
The apex court said that manufacturers were aware of the deadline and health of public is more important than sale of existing inventory.
Automakers had objected to an October 2016 order of the apex court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA). It sought implementation of a government notification to switch to new emission standards – Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV) – from 1 April. Bajaj Auto Ltd is the only automobile company to have backed the EPCA’s decision.
A 2015 notification of the road transport and highways ministry made it mandatory for automakers to switch to BS-IV norms from 1 April, but didn’t say whether the sale of BS-III inventory would be allowed.
Environmentalist Sunita Narain, who is also a member of EPCA, said: “...it is very important. The court has given a clear message that public health is what we care about. The court has said that yes we know there will be commercial loss but that the companies knew the deadline but still why did they build the inventory. It’s a lesson to everybody.”
The Society for Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) had sought more time to exhaust the inventory of BS-III vehicles as the notification bars only manufacturing after 31 March and not sale or registration of vehicles manufactured before 1 April .
According to data submitted by SIAM to the apex court, the inventory of two wheelers stands at 6.71 lakh units, of which Hero MotoCorp Ltd alone accounts for 2.97 lakh as of 20 March. Inventory of trucks stands at 96,000 and cars at 16,000.
During the hearing on Tuesday, the counsel for Society of Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), Abhishek Manu Singhvi, said: “We also have a stake in BS-IV. We are not resisting BS-IV. We have invested around Rs 25,000 crore for this change.” He further added that the total difference in pollution level if BS-III inventory is allowed to be sold will be less than 0.1 percent.
The government too had taken a stand in support of the automakers stating that the notification only bars manufacture post the deadline.
(The article was originally published on BloombergQuint)