SC order makes valid Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificate mandatory for annual vehicle insurance in India

Centre for Science and Environment welcomes the order, calls it “notable”

  • This can have far reaching impacts for improving compliance with the Pollution Under Control (PUC) programme and stop emissions from on-road vehicles, says CSE

  • An earlier assessment of the PUC programme had found very little compliance – in Delhi, only 23 per cent of the vehicles came for PUC tests

  • Now, all PUC centres to be linked with on-line network and data centre to prevent manual tampering 

  • State governments will have to audit all PUC centres and set up a strong oversight system to ensure credible tests and emissions results  

New Delhi, August 10, 2017: In a development with far reaching consequences for the battle to stop air pollution in the country, a Supreme Court bench comprising of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta today accepted the recommendations of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) to ensure mandatory linking of Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificate with issuing of annual vehicle insurance. The bench has directed that no insurance will be granted to a vehicle without valid PUC certificates. 

This recommendation was made by the EPCA in its Report No 73 (on assessment of Pollution Under Control (PUC) Programme in Delhi and NCR), which submitted in the court in April this year. 

Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) welcomed the order “as an important step forward, as the EPCA investigation has shown very poor level of compliance with the PUC programme. In Delhi, only 23 per cent of vehicles come for PUC tests. With mandatory linking of annual vehicle insurance with valid PUC certificate, the compliance level can improve significantly -- especially as the Supreme Court has directed its enforcement nation-wide.”  

The Supreme Court was listening to the air pollution matter in which the Union ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) had submitted its response to the EPCA report. Said Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE’s executive director-research and advocacy: “The PUC system is critical to keep emissions of on-road vehicles under check. Overall improvement in compliance will lead to lesser emissions on road.”

Highlights of the directive on the PUC programme from the Supreme Court 

• PUC centres allowed in all fuel stations: Though the EPCA has asked for limiting the number of PUC centres in the captical and NCR as these are very difficult to supervise to prevent malpractices with limited inspection staff for monitoring, the MoRTH did not agree with. The EPCA has found gross violations in the working of these centres. However, the ministry informed the court that instead of limiting the centres, it would prefer to issue an advisory to state transport departments to have PUC centres in every fuel station. The court has accepted this with a rider -- it has asked the MoRTH to empanel each station and list them on its website. It has also directed the government to inspect and audit these stations on a regulor basis to ensure compliance. 

• Introduction of automatic on-line network to link PUC data centres and mandate pre-payment of PUC fees for proper recording of tests: The recommendations of the EPCA on an automatic on-line network linking PUC data centres; pre-payment of the PUC fees before the tests are conducted; and a robust licencing system with third party audit of PUC centres have all been accepted by the bench. These recommendations were also accepted by the government. These reforms are needed to ensure that credible tests are done and all tests and their results are recorded properly.  

• Recommendations related to improvement in PUC norms for pre-BSIV vehicles, upgraded test procedures and other systemic changes to be heard in September: Recommendations of the EPCA on tightening of PUC norms for pre-BS IV vehicles, integration of the on-board diagnostic system with the PUC programme and implementation of real driving emisisons testing for BS VI vehicles have been contested by the MoRTH. These have been listed for further hearing on September 21, 2017. 

Important steps forward
CSE believes that the direction of the Supreme Court today will go a long way in improving compliance with the PUC system. Says Roychowdhury: “The direction to the government to audit all PUC centres will require a much stronger oversight system and a disciplined management. This is a major step forward in the battle to combat air pollution in the capital and across India. The directions are far reaching, as these are not restricted to Delhi but are applicable to the entire country.”

For interviews and any other details, please contact Vrinda Nagar of The CSE Media Resource Centre, / 9654106253.