Published: Wednesday 31 May 2000

While examining the Seventh Progress Report of the Environ-ment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, the Supreme Court directed the ministry of petroleum and natural gas (MPNG) to supply petrol with 0.05 per cent sulphur by May 31, 2000 and with one per cent benzene by October 1, 2000 to the entire National Capital Region (NCR) of Delhi.

Regarding diesel, the three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice A S Anand, Justice B N Kripal and Justice V N Khare wanted to know what MPNG had done to improve the fuel quality in the capital. Additional solicitor general Kirit N Raval pleaded that 0.05 per cent sulphur diesel was currently being supplied at select outlets and "only to new non-commercial Euro II compliant vehicles." He said that supplying this quality of diesel for the entire NCR and for all vehicles would involve huge financial investments.

The bench refused to take financial constraints as an excuse and suggested that the ministry raise the price of diesel to recover the cost of manufacturing better quality diesel. "A Mercedes-Benz car owner can very well afford to buy costlier diesel," noted Kripal. Anand said the bench would even consider banning registration of diesel vehicles in the city if better quality diesel was not supplied to the whole of NCR by October 1, 2000.

Another issue was the feasibility of converting existing auto-rickshaws to compressed natural gas (CNG). The bench said autos less than 10 years old (post-1990) can be retrofitted with CNG engines provided they meet the "existing" norms for petrol prevalent during the year of its manufacture. This would mean that a vehicle manufactured in 1991, on converting to CNG, would have to meet the 1991 norms, which are far outdated than the current norms. This would defeat the purpose of converting to CNG, a cleaner fuel option.

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