Mr. M.C. Mehta, who is a pioneer in the field of environmental law and one of the lawyers who has virtually dedicated himself to this cause, deserves to be commended for the persistence with which is admirable to say the least. Almost every environment matter of any significance is one with which Mr. Mehta has been associated.
Some of the significant principles and guidelines in vehicular pollution laid down by the Supreme Court in M. C. Mehta cases are as under:
In M.C. Mehta Vs. Union of India, (1991)2 SCC 137
A public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court against the pollution in Delhi caused by increasing number of petrol and diesel driven vehicles in the City. The Supreme Court directed the Delhi Administration to furnish a complete list of prosecution launched against the heavy vehicles, for causing pollution by infringement of various requirements of law. It was also directed to furnish particulars of the vehicles, registration of which was suspended and to further indicate the follow-up action taken after suspension.
The Court also suggested to the Environment Ministry that it should carry out experiments with the aid of the device brought out by the national Environment Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur, which would reduce the pollution content.
In M.C. Mehta Vs. Union of India, (1998) 5 SCC 720 (Popularly known as “Concert Yanni” Case)
In this case the question before the Supreme Court was regarding the environmental impact on Taj Mahal due to “Concert Yanni” which involved, inter alia, movement of a large number of visitors and vehicles in the 500 meter zone around the Taj Mahal. The committee recommended in this case also suggested that necessary steps should be taken to regulate the vehicular movements around the Taj Mahal. It was recommended that all the tourist busses/cars/taxies should be parked at Agra Bus stand from where the shuttle service for mass transportation using non-polluting vehicles should be introduced. The court approved the above recommendations and issued directions accordingly.
In M.C. Mehta Vs. Union of India, (1998)6 SCC 60
The Supreme Court pointed out that keeping in view the mandate of articles 47 and 48-A of the constitution of India, it had issued directions from time to time with a view to tackle the problem arising out of chaotic traffic conditions and vehicular pollution in Delhi. However, the court was not satisfied with the performance of the authorities concerned in tackling the acute problem of vehicular pollution and traffic regulation in Delhi. While giving the directions the court had treated it as a legal issue and proceeded to examine the impact of the right flowing from article 21 of the Constitution of India vis-a-vis decline in environmental quality.
In M.C. Mehta Vs. Union of India, (1998) 6 SCC 63
In this case the Supreme Court of India in order to arrest the growing pollution of the air directed that the following steps should be taken immediately.
1. Implementation of directions to restrict plying of commercial vehicles including taxis, which were 15 years old by 2nd October 1998.
2. Restrictions on plying of goods vehicles during the day time shall be strictly enforced by 15th August, 1998.
3. Expansion of premised oil dispensers (petrol and 2T oil) shall be undertaken by 31st December, 1998.
4. Ban on supply of loose 2T oil at petrol stations and service garages shall be enforced by 31st December 1998.
In M.C. Mehta Vs. Union of India, (1998) 8 SCC 206
In this case the learned Solicitor General appearing for the administrator submitted that phasing out and banning commercial vehicles which are more than 15 years old by 2/10/98 would lead to great hardship to the owners of those vehicles in particular and to the general public which make use of those vehicles in general. It was, therefore, submitted by him that the Court ay relax the rigour of the order regarding banning of 15 years old commercial/transport vehicles w.e.f. 02/10/1998 and he assured teh court that the administration itself was keen to phase out all such vehicles gradually to ease out the pollution level in the city. Then the Supreme Court of India modified its previous order and directed that:-
1. All commercial/transport vehicles which were more than 20 years old shall be phased out and not permitted toply in the national capital territory of Delhi after 02/10/1998.
2. All such commercial/transport vehicles which were 17 to 19 years old shall not be permitted to ply after 15/11/98.
3. Such of the commercial/transport vehicles which were over 15 years old and 16 years old shall not be permitted to ply after 31/12/98.
This order was to apply to all commercial/ transport vehicles whether registered in the national capital territory of Delhi or outside.
In order to create awareness among the general public, the Supreme Court directed the Union of India that various directions issued by the Supreme Court from time to time regarding the control of the vehicular pollution and regulation of traffic should be published in print as well as the electronic media.
In M.C. Mehta Vs. Union of India, (1999) 6 SCC 12
The Supreme Court after considering the suggestions made by Bhure Lal Committee and after hearing learned counsel for various parties the Supreme Court thought it appropriate to issue the following directions:-
1. All private (non-commercial) vehicles which conform to Euro-II norms may be registered in NCR without any restrictions.
2. All private (non-commercial) vehicles shall conform to Euro-I norms by 01/06/99. All private (non-commercial)vehicles shall conform to Euro0II norm by 01/04/2000. From 01/04/2000 no vehicle shall be registered unless it conforms to Euro-II norms.
3. No diesel taxi shall be registered with immediate effect unless it conforms to Euro-II norms.
In the subsequent case M.C. Mehta Vs. Union of India, (1999) 6 SCC 14
The Supreme court clarified that the restrictions on registration imposed above would not apply to the registration of vehicles, which are fitted with CNG. it was further clarified that Euro-I norms for this purpose mean India-2000 norms as notified by the Government of India vide GSR No. 493 (E) dated 28/08/97 but those norms would be effective from 01/06/99.
Unfortunately when neither the governmental authorities nor the private bus operators acted seriously or diligently in taking steps for the purposes of complying with the different directions issued by the Supreme Court from time to time. One of the important direction issued by the Supreme Court on 28/07/98 in the case of M.C. Mehta Vs. Union of India, (1998) 6 SCC 63 was to the effect that the entire bus fleet was to be steadily converted to a single fuel mode of CNG by 31/03/2001. Another direction was to the effect that no eight year old buses were to ply except CNG or other clean fuel after 01/04/2001. The failure to comply with the aforesaid direction was in spite of the fact that the Supreme court had issued a strong caution to all concerned in its order dated 28/07/98 that failure to comply with the aforesaid directions could render the concerned punishable for committing contempt of court.
For these presious efforts of Mr. M.C. Mehta we should give a salute.
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