The Supreme Court observed that citizens have a fundamental right to a pollution free environment as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The Court directed the Central Governement to examine recommendations by Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (‘EPCA’) and to formulate a policy of phasing out heavy­duty diesel vehicles and replacing them with BS­VI vehicles.

An application was filed in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) highlighting pollution issues arising from ICD which was used by trucks/trailers not destined for Delhi, contributing to increased air pollution in Delhi NCR due to emissions from the substantial inflow of these vehicles.

Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal observed “The issue of pollution, particularly air pollution, has been a cause of concern for the last few decades. Air pollution directly affects the fundamental rights of the citizens guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The right to life guaranteed under Article 21 includes the right to live in a pollution ­free environment.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Senior Advocate Pinaki Mishra represented the appellant, while ASG Aishwarya Bhati appeared for the respondents.

The NGT had passed an order to phase out diesel vehicles visiting the ICD and shift to electric, hybrid, and CNG vehicles. The other alternative suggested was to limit the entry of diesel vehicles only to the satellite terminals.

In this regard, the Supreme Court saiid that “citizens living in other parts of the country other than Delhi NCR also have a fundamental right to a pollution free environment as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The NGT while protecting/safeguarding the above fundamental right of the people of Delhi NCR cannot allow infringement of the same fundamental right of the citizens living outside Delhi NCR. The observation of the NGT is totally unjustified and unwarranted.

The Court discussed the significance of an ICD in the transportation and logistics chain. An ICD serves as a containerized cargo handling hub, facilitating imports and exports by providing direct connectivity to a seaport. It operates as an intermodal terminal connected to ports via railway transport, offering services like custom clearances, cargo aggregation, and storage. ICDs enable access to port facilities at the importers' and exporters' doorstep, allowing consolidation of cargo for more efficient transportation.

After examining various reports and submissions, the Supreme Court accepted the need to shift to cleaner fuels but noted technological limitations for heavy-duty vehicles. The Court noted “the EPCA recommended using BS­VI heavy­duty diesel vehicles as they are substantially cleaner than BS­IV heavy­duty vehicles. Therefore, a suggestion was made that the Ministry of Transport and Highways should come out with an effective and robust policy for the scrappage of heavy­duty diesel vehicles and their replacement with BS­VI vehicles.

The Court granted six months to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to formulate a policy for scrapping diesel vehicles and replacing them with BS-VI vehicles.

The Court also instructed the appellant to formulate a comprehensive plan for optimal ICD utilization, coordinate with authorities for extending lab services, and upgrade parking facilities within six months. The appellant was directed to implement recommendations for parking management.

The Supreme Court disposed of the appeal with these directions.

Cause Title: Container Corporation of India Ltd. v. Ajay Khera & Ors. (2024 INSC 31)


Appellant: Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, Senior Advocate Pinaki Mishra, AOR Punit Vinay, Advocates Rishi K Awasthi, Piyush Vatsa, Ritu Arora, Amit Vikram Awasthi, Yukti Anand, Usman Khan, Avinash Ankit, Rahul Gupta, and Shubham Saxena

Respondents: ASG Aishwarya Bhati, AOR Amrish Kumar and Mayuri Raghuvanshi, Advocates R. Bala, Prashant Singh Ii, Ruchi Kohli, Archana Pathak Dave, Ishaan Sharma, Sanjay Upadhyay, Vyom Raghuvanshi, Saumitra Jaiswal, Shubham Upadhyay, and Arushi Malik

Click here to read/download the Judgment