Petroleum Corpn. Ltd. Vs. Sunil Bansal & Ors.  INSC 1606 (18
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6392 OF
2009 [Arising out of SLP (C) No.6133 of 2008] Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd.
.. Appellant Versus Sunil Bansal & Others .. Respondents
The appellant Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited has filed this
appeal against the judgment of the High Court of Delhi passed in writ petition
No.5532 of 2007 dated 29th October, 2007.
It is imperative to evaluate the historical perspective in order
to properly appreciate main issue involved in this case. The notification
no.GSR 686 (E) dated 20th October, 2004 is in issue by which sub-rule (14) was
inserted in Rule 115 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989. This sub-rule
prescribed the mass emission standards (Bharat Stage-III which is popularly
called Euro-III)) for four wheeled vehicles. This notification was based on the
judgment of this court in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India & Others (1998) 6
SCC 63. The relevant portion of the notification dated 20th October, 2004 reads
as under:- "(1) These rules may be called the Central Motor Vehicles
(Fourth Amendment) Rules, 2004.
shall come into force- (a) in the National Capital Region and the cities of
Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad including Secunderabad,
Ahmedabad, Pune, Surat, Kanpur and Agra in respect of four wheeled vehicles
manufactured on and from 1st April, 2005 except in respect of four wheeled
transport vehicles plying on Inter-State Permits or National Permits or 3 All
India Tourist Permits within the jurisdiction of these cities; and (b) In other
areas of the country, from such date as may be notified by the Central
In this sub-rule "National Capital Region" shall have the same
meaning as assigned to it in clause (f) of section 2 of the National Capital
Region Planning Board Act, 1985 (2 of 1985)."
According to the appellant, the notification dated 20.10.2004
makes it abundantly clear that the four- wheeled transport vehicles
manufactured on and from 1.4.2005, except in respect of four wheeled vehicles
plying on Inter-State Permits or on the National Permits or All India Tourist
Permits within the jurisdiction of the National Capital Region and certain
other selected cities, would be permitted to ply only if they have Bharat
Stage- III certificate. In other words, it became mandatory for all the
vehicles manufactured after 31.3.2005 to obtain Bharat Stage-III certificate.
In M.C. Mehta (supra), this court realizing the urgency and
importance of protection and improvement of the environment directed the
authorities to take urgent steps to tackle the acute problem of vehicular
pollution in Delhi. The court was distressed at the apathy of the State
Administration when according to the white Paper published by the Government of
India, the vehicular pollution contributed 70% of the air pollution as compared
to 20% in 1970. In the said white paper, a deadline of 1.4.1998 had been
proposed for implementation of major actions. No concrete steps were taken. It
may be pertinent to mention that the authority headed by Shri Bhure Lal
proposed certain measures for immediate improvement of air quality and had
given a time-frame but those important recommendations of the Committee were
not implemented. The Bhure Lal Committee also proposed the following measures
within the time-frame in its action-take report filed in this court:
Frame 5 A Augmentation of public 1-4-2001 transport (stage carriage) to 10,000
Elimination of leaded petrol from the NCT Delhi 1-9-1998 as proposed by the
Authority and agreed to by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
of only premix petrol in all petrol-filling 31-12-1998 stations to two-stroke
Replacement of all pre- 1990 autos and taxis with 31-3-2000 new vehicles on
Financial incentives for replacement of all post- 31-3-2001 1990 autos and
taxis with new vehicles on clean fuels.
8-year-old buses to ply except on CNG or other 1-4-2000 clean fuels.
city bus fleet (DTC & private) to be steadily 31-3-2001 converted to
single-fuel mode on CNG.
6 H New
ISBTs to be built at entry points in North and 31-3-2000 South-West to avoid
pollution due to entry of inter-State buses.
I GAIL to
expedite and expand from 9 to 80 CNG 31-3-2000 supply outlets.
independent fuel- 1-6-1999 testing labs to be established.
Automated inspection and maintenance facilities to be Immediate set up for
commercial vehicles in the first phase.
Comprehensive I/M 31-3-2000 programme to be started by the Transport Department
and private sector.
CPCB/DPCC to set up new stations and strengthen 1-4-2000 existing air-quality
monitoring stations for critical pollutants.
This court approved the directions given and the time-frame fixed
by Shri Bhure Lal Committee. The court directed that the committee's
recommendation shall be strictly adhered to by all the authorities who shall
also 7 take effective and adequate steps to tackle the problem of vehicular
Pursuant to the directions of this court, the Central Government
issued various notifications in this regard.
1.6.1999, the Central Government issued a notification introducing
Euro-I/Bharat Stage-I (BS-I) emission norms, pursuant to which vehicles
manufactured after 1.6.1999 had to comply with BS-I norms. The Central
Government on 31.1.2000 issued another notification introducing Euro-II/BS-II
emission norms, pursuant to which vehicles manufactured after 1.3.2000 had to
comply with BS-II norms.
The clear interpretation of the notification dated 20.10.2004 was
that the vehicles manufactured after 1.4.2005 and complying with BS-III norms
and the vehicles manufactured prior to 1.4.2005 complying with BS-I and BS-II
norms but not more than 15 years old could play within the National Capital
Region. In the said notification, an exception has been provide in respect of
four wheeled transport vehicles holding Inter-State 8 Permits or National
Permits or All India Tourist Permits but not complying with BS-III norms even
though manufactured on or after 1.4.2005, which exception would apply only if
such vehicles were playing on the Inter-State Routes beyond the National
Capital Region. In other words, such vehicles could not ply within the National
Capital Region and other cities mentioned in the notification.
The appellant Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, in view of the
legal position, on 30.3.2007, issued notice inviting tenders for transportation
of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Cylinders within the National Capital Region
from its bottling plant at Piyala in Bahadurgarh to its Badarpur Depot and
therefrom to the godowns of its LPG distributors within Delhi.
9.3 (a) and 9.3(b) of the special terms of contract of the Notice inviting
tenders prescribed that the trucks offered for Delhi should comply with BS-III
emission norms if manufactured on or after 1.4.2005 and the age of the truck
should not be more than 12 years from the 9 month of floating of the Notice
inviting tenders as would appear from the "Registration Certificate
Book" of the truck.
It may be pertinent to mention that respondent no.1 filed a writ
petition No.2882 of 2007 in the High Court of Delhi challenging the eligibility
criteria of the trucks to be offered by the bidders. The Delhi High Court on
10.5.2007 dismissed the said writ petition holding inter alia that respondent
no.1 had not been able to make out a case for interference in the exercise of
not be said that the tender conditions as framed by the appellant Bharat
Petroleum Corporation Limited are violative of the norms and notifications
issued under the Central Motor Vehicles Rules or the directions of the Supreme
Court. The decision to permit vehicles which are less than 15 years old, even
if they do not conform to BS-II norms subject to the condition that no fresh
registration of vehicles not conforming to Bharat Stage-II norms would be
granted after 24.10.2001 and the vehicles registered after 1.4.2005 would conform
to BS-III 10 norms is intended to phase out old vehicles in a progressive
manner while addressing the concern of adhering to the emission norms to
control vehicular pollution.
Respondent no.1 on 27.7.2007 filed another writ petition no.5532
of 2007 praying inter alia for directions to the appellant Bharat Petroleum
Corporation Limited to call and include the companies/firms owned by respondent
no.1 and his brothers to participate in the price bids; for directions to the
appellant Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited not to exclude the
companies/firms owned by respondent no.1 and his brothers from the price bids
on the wrong assumption and interpretation of clause 9.3(b) of the standard
terms & conditions of the notice inviting tenders.
The Central Government on 20.1.2009 issued a notification making
the Central Motor Vehicles (First Amendment) Rules, 2009 for amendment of the
Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989. In the Amendment Rules of 2009, a proviso
was added to sub-rule (7) of Rule 90 of 11 the Central Motor Vehicles Rules,
1989. The said proviso provides that where `such' vehicle is registered in the
National Capital Region, it shall not pick-up or set down goods between two
points situated in the National Capital Region unless it conforms to the mass
emission standards (BS-III) specified in sub-rule (14) of Rule 115.
According to the interpretation of the notification dated
20.10.2004, the Delhi High Court found that "it is clear that a vehicle
compliant with Bharat Stage-III norms possessing a National or Inter-State
Permit may ply in the National Capital Region or Delhi, more so when vehicles
older and less efficient and manufactured prior to that date are permitted to
ply on the Delhi roads." The court further held that the "interpretation"
sought to be given by respondent no.1 to the relevant Rules would also lead to
absurd results, if implemented. The result would be that while respondent no.1
would entertain the bids in respect of goods carriage which are not even Bharat
Stage-I compliant or are Bharat Stage-I and II compliant and are manufactured
before 1.4.2005, it 12 would not entertain bids in respect of goods carriage
which are relatively new and are manufactured after 1.4.2005 and are also
Euro-II/Bharat Stage-II compliant
According to the appellant, the High Court has misconstrued and
misread the notification dated 20.10.2004 which was made expressly for the
purpose of controlling pollution within the National Capital Region in stages.
The fact of older vehicles manufactured prior to 1.4.2005 being permitted to
ply does not militate or discriminate against the prohibition of plying
vehicles manufactured after 1.4.2005 which were not Bharat Stage-III complaint,
because they fell in different classes.
classification was necessitated on account of the fact that all vehicles could
not have been prohibited from plying in one stroke as that would have created
total chaos in the National Capital Region.
The appellant also submitted that the policy behind the
notification was that in future, older vehicles would be phased out on
completion of 12 years from their date of manufacture automatically and newer
vehicles would 13 necessarily have to comply with Bharat Stage-III norms so
that gradually the emission norms would improve and in 12 years all vehicles
would be at least Bharat Stage-III compliant. The appellant submitted that the
notification dated 20.1.2009 issued by the Central Government adding the
following proviso to sub-rule 7 of Rule 90 the Central Motor Vehicles Rules :
that where such vehicle is registered in the National Capital Region, it shall
not pick up or set down goods between two points situated in the National
Capital Region unless it conforms to the mass emission standards (Bharat
Stage-III) specified in sub-rule (14) of rule 115."
According to the appellant, the clarificatory amendment made it
abundantly clear that even vehicles possessing a national permit, but
manufactured after 1.4.2005 cannot ply within the National Capital Region
unless they are Bharat Stage-III compliant. According to the appellant, this
classification subserves the object of the notification, namely, the gradual
improvement of the environment in the National Capital Region by providing for
a gradual induction of Bharat Stage-III emission 14 norms compliant vehicles
and gradual phasing out of the old vehicles simultaneously. Therefore, there is
a clear nexus of the classification with the object of the legislation.
The appellant has placed reliance on the judgment of this court in
Harakchand Ratanchand Banthia & Others etc. v. Union of India & Others
(1969) 2 SCC 166 para 26 wherein the court held thus:
a law is challenged as violative of Article 14 of the Constitution it is
necessary in the first place to ascertain the policy underlying the statute and
the object intended to be achieved by it. Having ascertained the policy and
object of the Act the Court has to apply a dual test in examining its validity
(1) whether the classification is rational and based upon an intelligible
differentia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together
from others that are left out of the group and (2) whether the basis of
differentiation has any rational nexus or relation with its avowed policy and object...."
The appellant submitted that respondent no.1 in fact purchased the
vehicles which do not conform with Bharat Stage-III norms even though they had
been 15 manufactured after the notification dated 20.10.2004 and sought to
circumvent it by getting national permits.
In other words, the main submission of the appellant has been that
the entire notification is meant to achieve the object of reducing pollution in
consonance with the directions issued by this court. The said directions cannot
be defeated by merely obtaining National, Inter-State or All India Tourist
to the appellant, the notification makes it crystal clear that the vehicles can
ply in Delhi which are manufactured on or after 1.4.2005 complying with BS-III
emission norms. According to the appellant after the notification date
20.10.2004, there is no room for any controversy and the High Court has totally
misread and misconstrued the notification and consequently, the judgment of the
High Court is, therefore, liable to be set aside.
The respondent submitted that vide notification GSR 686-(E) dated
20th October, 2004 issued by the 16 Central Government Euro-III/Bharat
Stage-III Emission norms were introduced only in few cities including the
National Capital Region. As per the said notification vehicles manufactured
after 1.4.2005 had to comply with emission norms of Euro-III/B.S.-III. An
exception was provided to such notification according to which the vehicles
getting a registration under the Inter-State Permits or National Permits or All
India Tourist Permits within the National Capital Region and certain other
selected cities were exempted from the compliance of Bharat Stage-III emission
norms and they were allowed to be governed by Bharat Stage-II emission norms.
This was done for reason, the petroleum companies could not provide fuel
required for the Euro-III vehicle all over India, as such national permit
vehicles had to travel through many cities where such notification was not
applicable. Therefore, such exemption was given only to the vehicles which were
moving/plying outside the cities where the present notification was not
According to the respondents, the combined reading of the
aforesaid notifications and the judgment, it can be said that the vehicles even
if they do not conform to Euro-I/Bharat Stage-I emissions norms if manufactured
prior to 1.6.1999 and within 15 years can ply as per their permits. The
decision to allow such vehicles which are less than 15 years old, even if they
do not conform to any of the emissions norms, is intended to phase out old
vehicles in progressive manner while addressing the concern of adhering to
emission norms to control vehicular pollution by not allowing any fresh
registration of vehicles which are not conforming to emissions norms applicable
according to their manufacturing date.
We have heard the learned counsel for the parties at length and
carefully perused the impugned judgment, provisions of the Act, relevant
notifications and the Motor Vehicles Rules.
The entire controversy has to be properly comprehended in proper perspective.
The notifications issued by the Central Government were issued in 18 pursuant
to the directions of this court to achieve the object of reducing pollution in
the National Capital Region. As per the clear interpretation of the
notification in issue, only those vehicles will ply in National Capital Region
which were manufactured on or after 1.4.2005 and are complying with BS-III
norms. The vehicles manufactured prior to 1.4.2005 and complying with BS-I and
BS-II norms but are not more than 15 years old can also ply. This notification
was issued to reduce vehicular pollution in a phased manner. By one stroke, the
legislature could not have prohibited all vehicles plying in the city which did
not have BS-III compliant as that would have created total chaos, therefore, it
was introduced in a phased manner as has been done in the impugned
The High Court by its impugned judgment dated 29.10.2007 has held
that respondent no.1 herein is entitled to participate in the tender process
initiated by the appellant herein, offering four wheeled vehicles manufactured
on or after 1.4.2005 which are Euro-II/ 19 Bharat Stage-II compliant and having
national permits/ Inter-state permits.
However, a perusal of the notification in question i.e. GSR 686
(E) dated 20.10.2004 which was issued for the purpose of controlling pollution
within the National Capital Region in phased manner, makes it quite clear that
the vehicles manufactured prior to 1.4.2005 being permitted to ply does not
anyway militate or discriminate against the prohibition of plying vehicles
manufactured after 1.4.2005 which were not Bharat Stage-III compliant as they
clearly fell in different classes. Further, the other notification GSR 37(E)
dated 20.1.2009 which inter-alia inserts proviso to sub-rule (7) in Rule 90
clarifies that where such vehicle is registered in the National Capital Region,
it shall not pick up or set down goods between two points situated in the
National Capital Region unless it conforms to the mass emission standards
The aforesaid classification is essential in view of the fact that
all vehicles could not have been prohibited 20 from plying on road in one
stroke. Therefore, there is a clear nexus of the classification with the
objects sought to be achieved by the legislation. The rationale behind the
aforesaid notification is to phase out the older vehicles automatically in due
course and newer vehicles would necessarily have to comply with Bharat
Stage-III norms in order to gradually increase the emission norms thereby
curbing air pollution as per the directions issued by this Court in M.C.
Mehta's case (supra). Clearly, the aforesaid classification in the notification
intends to gradually improve the environment by providing a mechanism for a
gradual induction of Bharat-III emission norms. In view of the same, if we
accept the contention of the respondent the same would amount to negation of
the direction of this Court in M.C. Mehta's case (supra) and would also
frustrate the effect of the notifications dated 20.10.2004 and 20.1.2009.
Further, in the absence of any challenge to the validity of the proviso to
sub-rule (7) of Rule 90 inserted by Notification dated 20.1.2009, the said
provision has to be held valid and 21 must be given full effect. It is to be
noted that the view we have taken here is the only possible and intended view
which can be inferred from a reading of the amended provisions which is of
In our considered view, the High Court has misread and misconstrued
the notification. Consequently, the appeal is allowed and the impugned judgment
of the High Court is set aside.
In the facts and circumstances of the case, the parties are
directed to bear their own costs.
........................................J. (Dalveer Bhandari)
.......................................J. (Dr. Mukundakam Sharma)
September 18, 2009.