New Delhi: The Supreme Court today refused to stay the operation of NGT directions limiting the entry of all diesel and petrol tourist vehicles in Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh till August 14 to 1,000 per day.
The apex court only stayed one direction of the green tribunal that all vehicles would be subjected to pollution checks and should get certificates at the check post to comply with BS-IV standards before being allowed to operate on the 13,050 feet pass which links the Kullu Valley to the remote district of Lahaul and Spiti.
A vacation bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and U U Lalit said the taxi operators could argue their case before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) which would give them expeditious hearing.
The taxi operators have got the support from the Himachal Pradesh government which said there were lot of problems in complying with the directives of the NGT.
There have been protests against the directives, the advocate appearing for the state submitted and sought stay on certain directions.
However, the bench said “when such steps are taken there will be a hue and cry” and gave the example of SC order directing the implementation of CNG operated public transport system in national capital.
The bench also said when the apex court had delivered the directions on the issue of CNG, there was a lot of criticism and hue and cry. Even the then Delhi Chief Minister had publicly stated that she would disobey the order and go to jail, it added.
The bench, while asking the taxi operators to approach the NGT, noted that they were not heard properly before it as they had made an oral plea before it.
It asked the taxi operators to file their application within a week and requested the NGT to consider it on the next available day of hearing.
Him-Aanchal Taxi Operators Union through senior advocate Vibha Dutt Makhija submitted that the NGT order was coming in the way of not only taxi operators but also the middle-class tourists.
On the direction of the green panel that all vehicles should be subjected to pollution check and get certificates at the check posts to comply with BS-IV standards, Makhija said such fuel was not available in any petrol pump in the state.
The union had also approached the apex court against the environmental cess of Rs 2,500 on diesel vehicles and Rs 1,000 on petrol vehicles for each trip between Manali and Rohtang Pass.
Rohtang is a 13,050 feet high mountain pass on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas around 51 km from Manali and acts as the gateway to the remote district of Lahaul and Spiti from the picturesque Kullu Valley.
The NGT in its order has restricted the number of vehicles passing through Rohtang Pass for tourism purposes to 600 petrol and 400 diesel per day on first-come, first-serve basis and directed that each vehicle allowed would pay an environmental cess.
The NGT has said the amount thus collected would be kept in the account under a separate head by the state government and utilised only for the purpose of restoring ecology and environment.
It had also directed the state government to post a team of police, transport and other departments at Vashisht and Gulaba areas between Manali and Rohtang with complete infrastructure and machinery.
Each vehicle, which carries more than six passengers, would be liable to pay compensation of Rs 5,000 as environmental compensation for single entry.
NGT had also directed the state to take all requisite steps and call a meeting of manufacturers and suppliers for supplying CNG vehicles to ensure that there was least pollution in the eco-sensitive area of Rohtang Pass.