Yesterday, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India (SC), pursuant to its order in the case of M C Mehta v Union of India (WP (C) No. 13029/1985), imposed a complete ban on the sale and registration of Bharat Stage-III (BS-III) compliant two wheelers, three wheelers, four wheelers and commercial vehicles across the country from 1 April 2017. The Hon’ble Bench, comprising of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta, observed that “the health of the people is far, far more important than the commercial interests of the manufacturers or the loss that they are likely to suffer in respect of the so-called small number of such vehicles”.

The vehicle manufacturers argued before the SC that the manufacturers were entitled to manufacture such vehicles till 31 March 2017 and hence in doing so, they had not violated any prohibition or law. Accordingly, they pleaded that the sale and registration of such vehicles should not be prohibited, on and from 1 April 2017. The manufacturers also assured that they would not manufacture any vehicle which is not in compliance with BS-IV emission standards after 1 April 2017 and requested for a reasonable time to dispose their existing stock of such vehicles.

The SC observed that though the Government of India had incurred an expenditure of about Rs 30,000 crores for producing the requisite fuel for BS-IV compliant vehicles, the manufacturers of BS-III vehicles chose to “sit-back and declined to take sufficient pro-active steps”.

The SC, therefore, directed as follows:

  • On and from 1 April 2017, two wheelers, three wheelers, four wheelers and commercial vehicles that are not BS-IV compliant shall not be sold in India by any manufacturer or dealer.
  • On and from 1 April 2017, all the vehicle registering authorities under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 are prohibited from registering such vehicles that are not compliant with BS-IV emission standards except on proof that such a vehicle has already been sold on or before 31 March 2017.

Khaitan Comment

The SC order is a welcome step towards the protection of environment, improvement of air quality and public health across the country. However, whenever the emission standards have been raised in the past, be it to BS-II in 2005 or to BS-III in 2010, it was done in a phased manner, i.e. first in the major cities and then across the country. The vehicle manufacturers were also provided adequate time to sell and register older vehicles till the stocks lasted. This SC order is expected to have a significant impact on the vehicle manufacturers who have been pleading for more time to sell their existing stock of BS-III compliant vehicles.