Order of the day

The Supreme Court holds firm on its order to convert Delhi's diesel buses to CNG

 
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

the Supreme Court has reiterated that it will not allow diesel buses with 500 parts per million (ppm) sulphur to ply on Delhi roads after September 30, 2001. The court also clarified that it had not mandated autos and taxis to run on compressed natural gas (cng) only. It added that autos should have four-stroke engines and run on low benzene petrol and taxis should meet Euro II emissions norms. Calculations done by Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation ( ngo ), finds that it is more profitable for autos to use cng than petrol (see table: Still a bargain).

The Union government claimed that it had asked the Delhi government to stop the registration of cng autos and private vehicles to control queues at dispensing stations. But the apex court stood firm. "These are all excuses to cover up your act," said chief justice A S Anand. Kapil Sibal, who is representing the Delhi government, pointed out that the emission norms for commercial vehicles set by the court were Bharat stage II and petrol autos have no such norm to comply with, thus the Delhi government could not allow the registration of such autos in the capital.

Still a bargain
The running cost of a CNG auto is less than half that of a petrol auto. Thus it will always be more profitable to use CNG

Fuel Price (Rupees) Kilometerage (Kilometres per unit of fuel) Price per Km (Rupees)
CNG 12.20 per Kg 37.5 per Kg 0.33
Petrol 28.84 per Litre 27.5 per Litre 1.05


The Indraprastha Gas Limited (igl) was also criticised by the three-judge bench. Justice B N Kirpal repeatedly pointed out that though over 0.75 mcum (million metric standard cubic metres per day) of natural gas was allocated for the Pragati Power station, it was not commissioned. Thus this gas could be diverted to the transport sector. igl was rebuked for opening the letter of credit for orders of compressors later than they were supposed to, despite the severe crisis in the capital. The judges even did fast calculations to prove that igl 's promise of dispensing 4.4 lakh kg of gas by September 2001 cannot be met even after the requisite number of compressors are installed. igl was also chastised for diverting natural gas for cooking. "Why are you replacing lpg with cng ?" justice Kirpal wanted to know.

During the hearing, the court also asked the manufacturers of cng buses to examine the Bhure Lal committee report submitted in July 2001 and make suggestions. The report contains several important recommendations about the safety aspects of cng buses. It also recommends the use of "retrofitment of cng engines (exchange of the old diesel engine for a new cng engine) rather than conversions (fitting a cng conversion kit on an existing diesel bus), that are being done in some workshops to achieve the best possible results".

But the report recommends conversions that meet Euro II norms should be allowed. Harish Salve, amicus curie , had brought this issue to the court's notice. He called the conversions being done in some workshops as "screwdriver technology". He suggested that in the absence of conversion options, Ashok Leyland and Telco, the two cng bus manufacturers, should tell the court about the maximum number of buses they can supply by September 30, 2001.

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