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Fitness or Age?

The goal of the new policy is to reduce environmental pollution caused by old vehicles that have surpassed their life cycle and run without a valid fitness certificate. However, Delhi-NCR has its own issues which remain unresolved.

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The much-awaited National Automobile Scrappage Policy has been announced by the central government with an aim to phase out unfit and polluting vehicles. The policy says that commercial vehicles that have completed 15 years and private vehicles that are over 20 years old must undergo an automated fitness test and those failing the test will be off the road and deregistered and the owner can choose to scrap them.

Each fitness test under the new policy will, reportedly, cost Rs 40,000, which is in addition to road and green tax that every private vehicle owner will have to pay while renewing the registration after the 15-year period.

Based on this, the Delhi government wants vehicles to be scrapped in the Capital not due to age (as per the current law) but only based on fitness. Any registered diesel vehicle more than 10 years old and petrol vehicle over 15 years old cannot operate in the Delhi-NCR region and is automatically de-registered. In case of non-compliance, there is penal action, ranging from a fine of up to Rs 10,000 to impounding the vehicle and scrapping it. These rules have been laid down in various orders issued by the NGT (2015) and the Supreme Court (2018).

As of now, in the light of the centre’s new policy, there is no further order on the status of vehicles, both petrol and diesel, in Delhi and the verdicts of the apex court and NGT prevail. However, if the Delhi government does not get relief or there is no separate provision for the Capital in the new policy, it will approach the Supreme Court to review its 2018 order.

According to the reports, Delhi’s Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot has said that if the national vehicle scrappage policy allows old vehicles on the road on the basis of fitness, Delhiites should also get this exemption. He further said that after getting the notification from the centre on the policy, the government will study it in detail. He made it clear that in case there is nothing for the Delhiites in the policy, the Delhi government will move the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court had on October 29, 2018, prohibited the plying of 15-year-old petrol and 10-year-old diesel vehicles in Delhi-NCR and directed the transport department to announce that such vehicles will be impounded if found plying on the road. Describing the pollution situation in Delhi-NCR as “very critical”, the apex court had also said that a list of such vehicles should be published on the website of the transport department.

The transport department had then issued “guidelines for scrapping of motor vehicles in Delhi” in 2018. Although the number of authorised scrappers is now five, the number of old vehicles scrapped till date is only around 3,000.

Under the centre’s new scrapping policy, the vehicles will not be scrapped merely on the basis of age but they will be tested scientifically at authorised, automated testing centres, and thereafter, those found unfit will be scrapped scientifically. The policy intends to ensure that registered vehicle scrapping facilities all over India are technology-driven and transparent.

The vehicle scrapping policy was first announced by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while presenting the Union Budget for 2020-2021 in Parliament. Soon after on March 18, the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, introduced the new vehicle scrapping policy in the Lok Sabha.

The minister said: “There are four major components of the policy. Apart from rebates, there are provisions of green taxes and other levies on old polluting vehicles. These will be required to undergo mandatory fitness and pollution tests in automated facilities. Auto­mated fitness test centres will be set up under the public-private partnership mode, while the government will assist private partners and state governments for scrapping centres. Driving such vehicles that fail to pass automated tests will attract huge penalties and they will also be impounded.”

The objective of the new policy is simply to phase out and recycle old vehicles through a systematic process. The ultimate goal of the policy is to reduce environmental pollution caused by old vehicles that have surpassed their lifecycle and run without a valid fitness certificate.

In January, the government had said that it plans to impose a green tax on old polluting vehicles soon in a bid to protect the environment and curb pollution, while vehicles like strong hybrids, electric vehicles and those running on alternate fuels like CNG, ethanol and LPG will be exempted. The revenue collected through the green tax will be utilised for tackling pollution.

The policy is also aimed to reduce India’s oil import bills by improving fuel efficiency, reduce environmental pollution and improve road and vehicular safety by getting rid of old and defective vehicles, boost the availability of low-cost raw materials like plastic, steel, aluminim, steel, rubber, electronics, etc. for the OEMs.

Importantly, a vehicle should be scrapped at the end of its life cycle so that it no longer runs on the road and this policy of phasing out older vehicles will generate space for new vehicles, which will boost the sales in the otherwise battered and bruised Indian auto industry.

The criteria to determine vehicle fitness will primarily be emission tests, braking, safety equipment, among many other tests which are as per the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989. The rules for fitness tests and scrapping centres are to be applicable from October 1, 2021, while scrapping of government and PSU vehicles which are older than 15 years will come into effect from April 1, 2022.

The mandatory fitness testing for heavy commercial vehicles will be in force from April 1, 2023, and the same will be in place in a phased manner for other categories from June 1, 2024.  The increased fees for fitness certificates and tests will be applicable for commercial vehicles 15 years onwards from the date of initial registration, and in case of failure to get the fitness certificate, such vehicles will be de-registered.

The increased re-registration fees will be applicable for private vehicles 15 year onwards from the date of initial registration. Such vehicles are to be de-registered after 20 years if found unfit or in case of a failure to renew the registration certificate. A vehicle failing the fitness test or failing to get a renewal of its registration certificate will be declared as “End of Life Vehicle”.

According to the new policy, a certificate will be issued on the scrapping of old cars, which will ensure that the owners get a discount on the purchase of new cars and other benefits.

A scrap value of the ex-showroom price of the vehicle, ranging from 4-6 percent will be given to the owner if he/she chooses to scrap the vehicle. A rebate of upto 25 percent will be given in road tax. Vehicle manufacturers will also be advised to give a five percent discount on new vehicles against a scrapping certificate. And no registration fees will be for charged for such vehicles.

The Ministry of Heavy Industries in 2017 had approached the Supreme Court against the NGT order banning diesel vehicles more than 10 years old in Delhi-NCR. While seeking modification of the order, the ministry had argued that the owners of diesel vehicles, especially private ones, will lose them, even if they had been well-maintained, due to the strict age criteria.

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Environmentalist Rajeev Suri said: “This policy of scrapping of old vehicles is going to conflict with the electric vehicle policy because the electric vehicle policy has to come in when we start scrapping. Age should not be a factor, it should be scrapped as fast as possible by giving incentives to convert to electric vehicle.”

Suri believes that instead of scrapping old vehicles, the government should pay attention to electric vehicles because not only in the Delhi but in the whole of India, 70 percent of the vehicles are run on petrol and diesel.

By shutting them down, the government should insist on running the motor company with electric battery and instead of scrapping the battery, it should be made by the company in such a way that it should be utilised so that pollution due to battery scrappage can also be avoided.

—By Adarsh Kumar and India Legal News Service

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