Two-wheelers and four wheelers driven by women plying in the national capital would be exempted from the odd-even vehicle rotation scheme with the Supreme Court on Monday staying the National Green Tribunal's 2017 direction which had made it applicable for all vehicles.
Under the scheme, which is currently not in force in Delhi, odd and even numbered vehicles are to ply on alternate days. As per the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) for Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), the odd-even scheme comes into effect automatically whenever the particulate matter PM10 and PM 2.5 rises to 500 microgram per cubic metre and 300 microgram per cubic metre respectively for 48 hours. The apex court's order came after the Delhi government said there were around 68 lakh two-wheelers here and it would be "impossible to accommodate" the people in public transport if the odd-even scheme was made applicable for two-wheelers also.
The NGT had on November 11 last year said that "There shall be no exemption to any person, officer and individual and the two wheelers from the ambit and scope of odd and even scheme. They will be applied with equal rigour to all cases and all vehicles." On December 15 last year, it had dismissed the review plea filed by the Delhi government seeking exemption for two-wheelers in the odd-even scheme, saying such a relaxation would defeat the purpose of improving Delhi's ambient air quality.
On Monday, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta was told by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Delhi government, that besides the two-wheelers, they also wanted exemption for vehicles driven by women due to "safety" concern. The bench issued notice to the petitioner, who had moved the NGT in the matter, on the plea filed by the Delhi government. Nadkarni told the court that as per NGT's last year order, no exemption would be granted to any individual or two-wheelers from the ambit of the odd-even scheme.
He said that earlier during odd-even scheme, exemption was granted to women driving four-wheelers due to safety reasons. When he sought a stay on the NGT's directions, the bench observed "there is no odd-even scheme now". To this, the ASG said the scheme would be implemented automatically based on the level of PM 10 and PM 2.5 and the ensuing months of winter would be the time for it. "We want exemption for two-wheelers and women," he said.
Nadkarni referred to the number of two-wheelers in Delhi and said if the odd-even scheme was made applicable for these vehicles, around 25 lakh people would have to be accommodated in public transport which would be "impossible".
Seeking exemption for four-wheelers driven by women, the ASG said that "unfortunately" there were safety concerns and women cannot be asked to travel in public transport. The bench accepted the submissions of Nadkarni and stayed the operation of NGT's order in this regard. During the hearing, Nadkarni told the apex court that they were complying with all the directions of the NGT but want exemption for two-wheelers and vehicles driven by women from the odd-even scheme.