The Supreme Court favoured widening of judicial scrutiny of a case pertaining to use of cheat device in diesel cars to flout emission norms in vehicles made by German auto major Volkswagen by bringing other auto majors under the scanner. A bench of justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta said that the National Green Tribunal may consider whether the scope of the emission-related case, involving Volkswagen presently, could be expanded to other carmakers also. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Volkswagen, said that the company has been singled out for violation of norms which are "non-existent". He said that the automobile company complies with country's existing norms on emission and has already deposited Rs 100 crore fine imposed by the NGT to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
The bench refused to interfere with the orders of NGT imposing fine on the automaker but restrained the green panel from taking any punitive action against the directors of the company as it has complied with the orders and deposited Rs 100 crore with the CPCB. It said that all rights and contentions of the parties would remain open and Volkswagen can raise its objections to the findings of the committee before the NGT.
The top court also asked the NGT to hear the Union Ministry of Road and Transport in the case. During the brief hearing, the court observed that the green panel should not have passed the order asking the auto-major to deposit money with the CPCB in view of the fact that it was seized of the case.
Volkswagen India Pvt Ltd had moved the top court challenging the orders of the green tribunal directing the company to deposit Rs 100 crore with the CPCB while a committee decides on the allegations of emission norms violations.
On January 17, the NGT had slammed Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore, imposed on it for damaging the environment through use of 'cheat device' in its diesel cars, and directed it to submit the amount within 24 hours failing which its directors would be sent to jail.
The green panel on November 16, 2018 had said that use of 'cheat device' by Volkswagen in diesel cars in India leads to inference of environmental damage and directed it to deposit an interim amount of Rs 100 crore with the CPCB.
It had also stated that the deposit was only an interim measure and constituted a joint team of representatives of the CPCB, Ministry of Heavy Industries, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute.
The four-member committee has also recommended Rs 171.34-crore fine on Volkswagen as "health damages" for causing air pollution in Delhi due to excess nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. A spokesperson of Volkswagen Group India said that all cars of the company are complying with the emission norms in India.
The expert committee in its report has estimated that Volkswagen cars released approximately 48.678 tonnes of NOx in 2016 in the national capital. The panel was formed by the NGT on November 16 last year to give its opinion whether the manufacturer has exceeded the prescribed environmental norms and fair estimate of the damage caused to the environment.
The committee has told the NGT that automobiles are a major source of nitrogen oxide. The green panel had said the use of 'cheat device' by Volkswagen in diesel cars in India leads to an inference of environmental damage and asked the German carmaker to deposit an interim amount of Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board.
The tribunal was hearing pleas filed by Ailawadi, a school teacher, and a few others seeking ban on the sale of Volkswagen vehicles for alleged violation of emission norms. A 'cheat' or 'defeat device' is software in diesel engines to manipulate emission tests by changing the performance of the cars globally.
Volkswagen India had in December 2015 announced the recall of 3,23,700 lakh vehicles in India to fix the emission software after ARAI conducted tests on some models and found that their on-road emissions were 1.1 times to 2.6 times higher than the applicable BS-IV norms. The automobile giant had admitted to the use of 'defeat device' in 11 million diesel engine cars sold in the US, Europe and other global markets to manipulate emission test results.
After the tests by ARAI, Volkswagen India had undertaken a rejig of the software by recalling around 3.23 lakh vehicles fitted with EA 189 diesel engines which were in alleged violation of emission norms. The company, however, had said that the recall in India was purely voluntary in nature as it did not face any charges regarding violating emission norms in India, unlike in the US.