SC set asides NGT Order imposing blanket ban on supply of fuel to vehicles not having valid PUC [READ JUDGMENT]

Today in the case of State of Madhya Pradesh vs Center for Environment Protection Research and Development and Others (Civil Appeal No. 8932-8933 of 2015), a bench of Apex  Court comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Indira Banerjee, delivered Judgment on the issue of scope of power of National Green Tribunal to issue direction restraining petrol pump owners to not to give fuel to vehicles which does not have valid Pollution Under Control (PUC) Certificate and further the power to direct deposition of security in the Tribunal

Background:

State of Madhya Pradesh filed appeal against an order dated 21st April, 2015 passed by the National Green Tribunal, Central Zonal Bench, Bhopal, allowing Original Application No. 1/2013 (CZ) filed by the Respondents and directing that motor vehicles not complying with the requirement of displaying a valid “Pollution Under Control” (PUC) Certificate would suffer the consequence of suspension and/or revocation of the Registration Certificate of the vehicle, and would also not be provided with fuelby any dealer or petrol pump, as well as an order dated 3rd August, 2015 rejecting the application filed by the appellant for review of the said order dated 21st April, 2015, being the Miscellaneous Application No.394 of 2015, but granting the appellant a further period of sixty days for compliance of the order under review on condition of the appellant making a deposit of Rs.25 crores with the Registrar of the Tribunal within a week from the order dated 3rd August, 2015, by way of security for compliance with the order, failing which the security deposit would be utilized for environmental needs under the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010. 

Issues involved:

  1. Whether the learned Tribunal could have directed the appellant State Government to issue orders and/or instructions and/or directions to petrol pumps or retail outlets or dealers not to supply fuel to vehicles not having a valid PUC; 
  2. Whether motor vehicles not complying with the requirement of displaying a valid PUC Certificate can be debarred from being provided with fuel by any dealer/or petrol pump or outlet; and 
  3. Whether a Tribunal constituted under the Green Tribunal Act, 2010 could have passed orders directing the State Government to make a monetary deposit to secure compliance of an order, and that too in an application for review of an order, which did not contain any such direction.

The Court Held

”On a combined reading of Sections 3, 7, 10, 11 and 23 of the Environment Protection Act, with particular reference to Section 3(1), 3(2)(i)(a) and (b), 3(2) (iii, iv) and 3(2)(x) with Section 20 of the 1981 Act and Sections 14, read with 2(c), and 2(m) of the NGT Act and Rules 115 and 116 of the 1989 Rules, the learned Tribunal had the power, authority and/or jurisdiction to direct the appellant State Government to strictly implement the requirement of vehicles to possess and/or display a valid PUC Certificate, and also to direct the appellant State Government and/or the other authorities concerned to take penal action in accordance with law, that is, Rules 115/116 of the 1989 Rules.

It is amply clear that driving a vehicle without a pollution PUC certificate entails

 (i) suspension of registration certificate;

 (ii) imprisonment which may extend to three months; 

(iii) fine which may extend to Rs.10,000/- or both 

(iv) disqualification for holding licence for a period of three months

 (v) imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to Rs.10,000/- or with fine

Stoppage of supply of fuel to vehicles not complying with the requirement to have and/or display a valid PUC Certificate is not contemplated either in the 1989 Rules or in the NGT Act. Motor Vehicles not complying with the requirement of possessing and/or displaying a valid PUC Certificate cannot be debarred from being supplied fuel.

In passing blanket direction, directing the appellant State Government to ensure that no dealer and/or outlet and/or petrol pump should supply fuel to vehicles without PUC Certificate, de hors the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, the learned Tribunal overlooked the fact that no vehicle can either be repaired to comply with pollution norms, nor tested for compliance with the political norms upon repair, without fuel. 

This Court is, therefore, constrained to hold that the learned Tribunal had no power and/or authority and/or jurisdiction to pass orders directing the Appellant State Government to issue orders, instructions or directions on dealers, outlets and petrol pumps not to supply fuel to vehicles without PUC Certificate. The first two questions are answered accordingly. 

There is no provision in the NGT Act for deposit of security to secure compliance of an order of the Tribunal. The penalty for failure to comply with an order of the Tribunal entails the penalty prescribed in Sections 26 and 28 of the NGT Act.   The learned Tribunal had no power and/or authority and/or jurisdiction to direct the appellant State to deposit Rs.25 crores to secure compliance with its order. In any case such an order should not have been passed in review when the initial order did not contain any direction for security deposit. The third question is accordingly answered. 

The State appellant shall, however, strictly implement compliance of Rules 115 and 116 of the Rules and penalize all those who contravene the said Rules in accordance with the provisions of the 1989 Rules. The Registration Certificate of vehicles which do not possess a valid PUC Certificate shall be forthwith suspended and/or cancelled, and penal measures initiated against the owner and/or the person(s) in possession and/or control of the offending vehicle, in accordance with law.  

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