The National Green Tribunal Thursday slammed Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore, imposed on the German auto major for damaging the environment through use of ‘cheat device’ in its diesel cars, and directed it to submit the amount within 24 hours failing which its directors would be sent to jail.
The green panel on November 16, 2018 had said that use of ‘cheat device’ by Volkswagen in diesel cars in India leads to inference of environmental damage and directed it to deposit an interim amount of Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
It had also stated the deposit was only an interim measure and constituted a joint team of representatives of the CPCB, Ministry of Heavy Industries, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute.
The four-member committee has also recommended Rs 171.34-crore fine on Volkswagen as “health damages” for causing air pollution in Delhi due to excess nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.
On Thursday, a bench headed by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel took strong exception to the non-compliance of its order by the automobile giant and asked it to give an undertaking that it will submit the amount by 5PM Friday.
“Why have you not complied with our order when there is no stay. We will not give you any further time. You are in default. If you do not deposit the amount, we will order arrest and detention of your directors,” the bench, comprising Justice S P Wangdi, said while asking Volkswagen to submit an affidavit of compliance after depositing the amount.
The apex tribunal also said that in case the amount is not deposited by Friday, the directors of the company will be sent to jail.
It deferred the matter for hearing after it was informed that the Supreme Court is also seized of the issue.
A spokesperson of Volkswagen Group India said that all cars of the company are complying with the emission norms in India.
“The Volkswagen Group reiterates that all cars from the group are compliant with the emission norms in India. The order of the NGT is already under challenge before the Supreme Court. However, the Volkswagen Group India will comply with the order of NGT and deposit the money, as directed,” Volkswagen Group India spokesperson said.
During the hearing, advocate Sanjeev Ailawadi, appearing for the petitioner in the case, Saloni Ailawadi, drew the attention of the tribunal towards the report of the four-member committee, and said the panel has neither consulted any specialist nor considered his objections before arriving at the conclusion.
He said the committee’s report was based on ARAI’s finding and there was no “application of mind” by its members and the essence of NGT’s November 16 order has been washed away.
The counsel appearing for Volkswagen, however, sought adjournment on the ground that the matter is already listed before the Supreme Court.
The expert committee in its report has estimated that Volkswagen cars released approximately 48.678 tonnes of NOx in 2016 in the national capital.
“Estimated cost of heath damage due to additional NOx emissions from the Volkswagen group vehicles is approximately Rs 171.34 crore using a metro city i.E Delhi as a base. The value may be considered conservative due to lack of methodologies for calculating the overall impact of nitrogen oxide on environment in India and hence only health damages are valued.
“Further, the valuation is for Delhi city considering that the value of NOx is 435 tonnes released in the city. This is assumed because lack of data on the geographical locations and plying regions of Volkswagen vehicles which have caused the damage and for all the years which have been considered for damage,” the committee has said in its report.
The panel was formed by the NGT on November 16 last year to give its opinion whether the manufacturer has exceeded the prescribed environmental norms and fair estimate of the damage caused to the environment.
The committee has told the NGT that automobiles are a major source of nitrogen oxide.
The green panel had said the use of ‘cheat device’ by Volkswagen in diesel cars in India leads to inference of environmental damage and asked the German carmaker to deposit an interim amount of Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board.
The tribunal was hearing pleas filed by Ailawadi, a school teacher, and a few others seeking ban on the sale of Volkswagen vehicles for alleged violation of emission norms.
A ‘cheat’ or ‘defeat device’ is a software in diesel engines to manipulate emission tests by changing the performance of the cars globally.
Volkswagen India had in December 2015 announced the recall of 3,23,700 lakh vehicles in India to fix the emission software after ARAI conducted tests on some models and found that their on-road emissions were 1.1 times to 2.6 times higher than the applicable BS-IV norms.
The automobile giant had admitted to the use of ‘defeat device’ in 11 million diesel engine cars sold in the US, Europe and other global markets to manipulate emission test results.
After the tests by ARAI, Volkswagen India had undertaken to rejig the software by recalling around 3.23 lakh vehicles fitted with EA 189 diesel engines which were in alleged violation of emission norms.
The company, however, had said that the recall in India was purely voluntary in nature as it did not face any charges regarding violating emission norms in India, unlike in the US. PTI