The Supreme Court, today, dismissed the application filed by Bajaj Auto, manufacturers of Auto Rickshaws, seeking to lift the cap on a Three-Seater Auto Rickshaw (TSR) in the NCT of Delhi.

The Court said that it is the guardian of the environment and will not entertain the application filed by a manufacturer for its commercial business.

The Bench of Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Augustine George Masih said, “We are not entertaining an application by private manufacturer of autos…otherwise it comes to this, the Court gets influenced while deciding an environmental issue on the basis of a requirement of a manufacturer of auto rickshaws for their own commercial reasons…You are a manufacturer of auto rickshaws, why should we do it? We are the guardians of the environment and we are entertaining an application for lifting the cap because somebody wants to sell its product.”

The Court dismissed the application saying that the application for doing away with the cap should not be entertained at the instance of a manufacturer of auto rickshaws and such an application must come from the Government or someone who represents the interest of the common man.

An application was filed by Bajaj Auto seeking to remove the cap which was on the issue of permits to Three-Seater Auto Rickshaw (TSR) in the NCT of Delhi from 55,000 to 1 lakh in 2011. The Counsel for Bajaj Auto submitted that after 2011 there has been no modification. “Even though in 1997, it was a twin-stroke engine and now we have CNG”, he said.

Justice Oka asked, “Where do you get this restriction?”

Counsel for the Respondent referred to an order dated November 11, 2011, in which the Court allowed the State Government to issue a permit to one lac TSRs.In the last hearings what I had submitted was that in NCR there is a transport audit which is not being implemented. So as of this date, we don’t know the requirement for buses or the requirement of TSRs and now we have electric vehicles also. There are E-rickshaws. I am not opposing this, I'm saying this report is from 2019 which is 5 years old…we need a fresh audit.”, she submitted while referring to the reports of the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA).

Justice Oka said to Counsel for Bajaj, “How can you say that there should not be any cap? For your commercial reasons, we cannot allow the environment to get damaged. You want to do business.”

He further added, “Application has to come from the authorities…if authorities find that the transport in Delhi is inadequate…we will not entertain this application at the instance of a manufacturer.”

Counsel for Bajaj submitted, “There is a requirement EPCA says that…government also support that…The Government also filed an application, it is pending.”

Justice Oka replied, “We will not entertain the applications by manufacturers who want to increase their business. If the State wants to, they will file an application… we are on the first principle of entertaining application made by an industry for commercial reasons for increasing the cap on these two-wheelers.

In the matter related to pending vacancies in State Pollution Boards (SPBs), the Court said, “Except for Rajasthan, we don’t see any affidavit.” The Court on the previous date of hearing directed States to file an affidavit in this regard.

Counsel for the Respondent submitted, “There is Delhi, Rajasthan and Punjab but the other two States i.e. Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have not filed.”

The CPCB had submitted a report as regards the status of manpower in SPBs. As per the Report, the State of NCT of Delhi has 344 sanctioned posts out of which 111 are in place and around 233 are vacant. In Haryana, 450 are sanctioned posts out of which 165 are in place and around 285 are vacant. For Rajasthan, it is 808 sanctioned posts, 332 in place and 476 vacant. Uttar Pradesh has 732 sanctioned posts, 407 are in place and 25 are vacant.

Today, the Court ordered, Pursuant to the order dated 22nd April 2024 the State of Rajasthan has filed an affidavit. It shows the sorry state of affairs that out of the sanctioned post of 808 on the establishment of The State Pollution Control Board, 395 posts are vacant. Practically one-half of the posts are vacant. It is shocking to know that…the Affidavit of the State discloses the filling of only 56 posts. The State has given another excuse based on an order dated 11th March 2024 passed by the Rajasthan High Court, the order relates only to the post of Junior Scientific Officer. We direct the Chief Secretary of the State Government to file his personal affidavit laying down a time-bound schedule for filling in all 395 vacant posts. Such Affidavit shall be filed within 3 weeks from today.”

The Court then perused the Affidavit of the State of Punjab and the State of NCT Delhi. In Punjab, the Court noted that half of the posts are vacant. Similarly, the Court directed the Chief Secretaries of Punjab to file the affidavit.

As regards the State of NCT of Delhi, the Court said, “How is your Pollution Control Board is functioning? It is functioning with one-third of the strength.”

Counsel for NCT of Delhi submitted that they have engaged 81 engineers on a contract basis.

Justice Oka remarked, “This is how your environment department functions…your environment department granted application for felling of trees. Usurping the powers of the Tree authorities. This is how you function. Persons who are manning the Environment Department have no sensitivity about the environment. What is going to happen? You tell us.”

The Court passed a similar order and added, “Instead of making an effort to regularly appoint staff members, the Government seems to have adopted a shortcut method of appointing contractual employees. This practice needs to be deprecated.”

For Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, similar directions were passed.

Previously, the Court had criticised the authorities concerned after they conceded that they would take until 2027 to build a facility of sufficient capacity for managing the solid waste generated in the capital city. The Court was told that Delhi is generating 3800 tons of solid waste every day beyond its capacity for processing.

The Court had also directed the Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) of the Government of India to convene a meeting of all concerned authorities governing the areas of NCT of Delhi to find a solution and place the same before the Court.

The Court had also highlighted the total generation of waste and the capacity to hold that waste in Gurugram, Greater NOIDA and Faridabad. Gurugram has 1200 tons/day generation of waste with a capacity of approx 1000 tons/day; Faridabad has a generation of 1000 tonne/day with a capacity of only 240 tons/day and Greater NOIDA has a total generation of 350 tons/day with a capacity of approx. 120 tons/day.

The Supreme Court, on perusal of a report submitted by the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), had expressed concern over 3000 tonnes of unprocessed municipal solid waste every day in the Delhi-NCR. The Court had also criticised the municipal authorities i.e. Delhi Municipal Corporation (DMC), New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and Cantonment Board(CB), Delhi for non-compliance with the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, therefore, directed DMC to take instructions and issued notice to the NDMC and CB, Delhi.

Cause Title: M.C. Mehta v. Union of India & Ors. (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 13029 of 1985)