Supreme Court has held that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) cannot issue orders to the state to bar vehicles that flout pollution under control (PUC) requirements from being supplied fuel as it lacks the jurisdiction. (State of Madhya Pradesh v. Centre for Environment Protection Research and Development)
What the Bench held about NGT powers
The fact that NGT has the power and jurisdiction to direct state governments to strictly ensure compliance of various laws enacted for the protection of the environment was approved by Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Indira Banerjee but held that in cases of vehicles flouting PUC norms, states cannot be directed to issue orders that prevent fuel supply to such vehicles.
Against an order of the NGT, the Supreme Court while deciding an appeal preferred by the Madhya Pradesh government held,
“There can be no doubt that strong measures must be taken to protect the environment and improve the air quality whenever there is contravention of statutory rules causing environmental pollution. Stringent action has to be taken, but in accordance with law.”
Background of the Appeal in NGT, Bhopal
The appeal aroused against the NGT’s Central Zone Bench order at Bhopal where the State of Madhya Pradesh was directed to strictly enforce the requirement of vehicles to display a valid PUC certificate, failing which strict consequences would follow. Cancellation of the vehicle’s registration and fuel supply dealers refusing to provide fuel to such vehicles were the followed consequences.
To ensure compliance of the NGT’s order the state was informed to make a security deposit of Rs 25 crore and same order was assailed.
The Supreme Court allowing the appeal partially indulged into the jurisdiction of the NGT vis-a-vis the Motor Vehicles Act.
Three questions were raised in the appeal before the Supreme Court for knowing about NGT and PUC connection:
- Whether the NGT could have directed the state government to issue orders to petrol pumps or retail outlets or dealers not to supply fuel to vehicles not having a valid PUC.
- 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.
- 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.
Noting of the Court
The Court looking at air pollution caused on account of vehicular emission examined the Central government’s power to take measures to curb air pollution and lay down standards of emissions in the Environment Protection Act of 1986.
The Court also observed that the Rules laid down under the Motor Vehicles Act in 1989 also work on provisions like PUC certification for vehicles and laid down the standard of emission and discharge of air pollutants from vehicles.
The Court held that where the Motor Vehicles Act finds no mention, NGT can settle disputes and decide questions relating to environment and that such query must emanate from implementation of the enactments listed in Schedule I.
The Supreme Court also expressed that the Rules under the MV Act cast a statutory obligation on manufacturers and owners of motor vehicles to abide by certain environmental obligations.
Mandate of PUC Certificate
The vehicle owners are mandated to have PUC certification, failing which strict penal action may be taken because the same has been enshrined in the Rules under the MV Act. According to the judgement, the NGT has the power to direct the State to strictly enforce this requirement and implement penal action against defaulters.
Punishment for not following the rules
Temporary suspension of licence or registration, fine, temporary disqualification from holding licence, or imprisonment can be the form of punishment imposed on the defaulters.
Judgment mentions that NGT could not have exercised its jurisdiction to direct the State to issue orders against fuel supply to defaulting vehicles, since the statutory provisions do not provide for any other penal action.
“It is well settled that when a Statute or a Statutory Rules prescribed a penalty for any act or omission, no other penalty contemplated in the Statute or a Statutory Rules can be imposed. It is well settled that when Statute requires a thing to be done in a particular manner, it is to be done only in that manner…
…the Tribunal had no power and/or authority and/or jurisdiction to pass orders directing the Appellant State Government to issue orders to dealers, outlets and petrol pumps not to supply fuel to vehicles without PUC Certificate.”
The Court for answering the question of monetary deposit held that the NGT can impose fine for non-compliance of orders or contravention of statutory provisions. However, none of the provisions provide for directing deposits to be made to secure compliance with an order.
Therefore such a judgment
“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.”
The Court making the observation set aside the order of the Tribunal and directed the State of Madhya Pradesh to strictly enforce the penal provisions to punish those found flouting PUC certificate norms.
Direction by the Court
“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.”