Supreme Court verdict on BS IV norms

Author Name: Kavya Krishnan

Title of the paper : Supreme Court verdict on BS IV norms


Pollution is the presence in or introduction into the environment a substance that has harmful or poisonous effects. Air pollution is the introduction of some substance that has harmful effects into the air. Pollutants in the air aren’t always visible and come from different sources. The rate at which urban air pollution has grown across the country is alarming. Majority of the cities are trapped in this web due to deteriorating air quality. Almost all major cities are suffering from particulate pollution while new pollutants have begun to add up. Whereas in few major cities there has been action which has shown some improvement but in most of the cases the particulate levels are still high.  The medium or small sized towns are witnessing phenomenal surge in pollution levels as severe or comparatively more than in any other major city.

A Times of India article dated 11th of January 2017 reported that as many as 1.2 million deaths take place every year due to air pollution. A Greenpeace India report titled ‘Airpocalypse’ published these estimates according to which Delhi is the most polluted city in India. The report has compiled its data through online reports, right to information applications made by different state pollution control boards and from assessment in around 168 cities across 24 States and Union Territories of the country. Also it claims that none of these cities comply with the air quality standards prescribed by the WHO. The estimated number of deaths due to air pollution is just a fraction less than that of deaths caused due to use of tobacco and the GDP falls 3% due to air pollution. Fossil fuels are considered to be one of the main culprits for the deteriorating quality of air across the country. A similar article dated 14th of February 2017 in the Times of India brought out the results of a new study on global air pollution conducted by US based institutes which claims that India’s worsening air pollution has caused about 1.1 million premature deaths in 2015 and the country now rivals China for among the highest air pollution health burdens in the world. It also said that both the countries were together responsible for over half of the total global attributable deaths while India has registered an alarming increase of nearly 50% in premature deaths from particulate matter between 1990 and 2015. The long term exposure to fine particulate matter – most significant element of air pollution, the study says has contributed to 4.2 million premature deaths and to a loss of 103 million healthy years of life in 2015, making air pollution the 5th highest cause of death among all health risks, including smoking, diet and high blood pressure. Even though the government here never denied the negative impact of air pollution it preferred not to speak about it. The environment minister Mr. Anil Madhav Dave opined that there is no conclusive data available in the country to establish direct co – relationship of deaths exclusively with air pollution. Health effects of air pollution are synergistic manifestation of factors which include food habits, occupational habits, socio – economic status, medical history, immunity, heredity, etc. of the individuals. Also he said that the air pollution could be one of the triggering factors for respiratory associated ailments and diseases.

The statistics cited above clearly states that India requires a catapult agenda to address the imminent health crisis largely occurring due to the increasing rate of air pollution.

As per thenewspaper report, fossil fuels are the main culprits of the increasing air pollution, the transport sector is the largest user of oil which consumes nearly half of the total consumption. Asian Development Bank projects states that the total fuel consumption of on – road vehicles in India in 2035 can be six times over that of 2005 level. The alarming increase in the number of personal vehicles and the shift from the public transportation will increase the need for fuel to function.

Vehicular pollution

Vehicles are a distinct problem since their emissions are released in the breathing zone of the people. Number of studies show that exposure to these emissions can trigger respiratory system ailments and other diseases to the extent of even cancer. The traffic congestion further aggravates these emissions due to the stop and go pattern.

The solution to all this being the introduction of vehicle technology, fuels and fuel efficient vehicles. For achieving public health goals, emission standards has to be improved.Lagging behind in regulating emission standards further aggravates the public health impacts

Due to lower level of income threshold, the Indian market has favoured small cars and two wheelers. As they use less fuels, the average fleet – wide fuel consumption is expected to be low. But with rising income levels there is a shift towards bigger cars that uses more fuels. 

Fuel efficiency standards crafted by the government sets a benchmark for the improvement in the efficiency levels of the vehicular technologies, which provides a level playing field for companies to compete fairly with each other allowing customers to compare models without sacrificing on the efficiency standards.

The many factors determining emission from vehicles are vehicular technology, fuel quality, inspection and maintenance of the vehicles in use and the road and traffic management.

Since each and every factor mentioned have environmental implications, all of these issues should be addressed as a whole.

The vehicular technology has evolved to meet the safety and emission standards.

Bharat Stage Emission Standards

Bharat Stage emission standards are set by the Central Pollution Control Board to normalize the air pollutants emitted by the internal combustion of engines. Bharat Stage standards are based on European Regulations.

Each of these stages stipulates a certain limit on the pollutants released, which is controlled by the type of fuel made by the oil companies and the upgradations and modifications made by the automobile industry to their vehicles to be compatible accordingly and at the same time control the pollutants release from the vehicles.

The main sources of emission in automobiles are the exhaust system, fuel tank and carburettor and crankcase. The exhaust produces a number of air pollutants including unburnt hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen monoxide and lead oxides. Also there are traces of aldehydes, esters, ethers, peroxides, ketones which are chemically active and combine to form smog in the presence of light. Evaporation from the fuel tank becomes a process that goes on and on due to the volatile nature of petrol causing emission of hydrocarbons. Evaporation through the carburettor occurs when the engine if off and the heat builds up, as much as 12 to 40 ml of fuel is lost at each stop causing emission of hydrocarbons which accounts for 25 per cent of the total hydrocarbon emissions of an engine.

The harmful emissions identified for regulations in different Bharat Stages consist of

  • Carbon monoxide – prevents oxygen transfer and increases headaches or nausea
  • Unburnt hydrocarbons – Causes headache, vomiting and disorientation
  • Nitrogen Oxides – Damages lung tissue, causes nose and eye irritation
  • Particulate matter – Harms the respiratory tracts and reduces lung function

The first emission standard norms were implemented in India for the petrol variant vehicles in 1991 and for diesel variant vehicles in 1992.

In the year 1995, the compulsory fixture of catalytic converters in the new petrol variant cars sold in the metros along with the supply of unleaded petrol were implemented. Further the availability of the unleaded petrol was extended to 42 major cities and is now available throughout in the country.

The year 2000 saw passenger cars and commercial vehicles meeting Euro I equivalent India 2000 norms, while the two wheelers in the country met one of the stringent emission norms in the world.

In 2001, Euro II equivalent Bharat Stage II norms came into force in the metro cities.

The first Auto Fuel Policy which was announced in August 2000 laid down the Emission and Fuel Roadmap upto the year 2010. According to which four wheeler vehicles moved to the Bharat Stage III emission norms in 13 metro cities from April while the rest of the country moved to Bharat Stage II norms.

In the year 2010 Bharat Stage IV was implemented in 13 Metro cities whereas the rest of the country moved to Bharat Stage III. The Bharat Stage IV were further extended to addition 20 cities in October 2014

Bharat Stage IV for 13 Metro cities was implemented April 2010 onwards and the rest of the country moved to Bharat Stage III. Bharat stage IV norms were extended to additional 20 cities October 2014 onwards.

Another difference between each standard is the sulphur content. For example, BS-IV fuels contain far less sulphur than BS-III fuel. Sulphur in fuel makes it dirtier and lowers the efficiency of catalytic converters, which control emissions.

The Auto Fuel Policy 2025 which was submitted to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, which constituted an expert committee for the formulation of the same. The policy document laid down the emission and fuel road map upto 2025.

The proposed road map anticipated implementation of BS IV norms across the country by April 2017 in a phased manner and BS V emission norms in 2020/2021 and BS VI from 2024.


BS IV Engine Requirements:

  • BS IV compliant vehicle requires larger catalytic converters in terms of flow volumes to eliminate harmful nitrogen based gasses.
  • Petrol powered cars have an on board diagnostics (OBD) 2 port, which controls engine behaviour in real time. The OBD 2 port and real time emission control is mandatory for BS IV
  • Buses and trucks need Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC), Lean Nox Catalyst (LNC) and Lean Nox Trap (LNT) and also a Urea Injector called the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) module.

These technologies although used very commonly in Europe has reduced the rate of pollution enormously.

On 29th March 2017 in a writ petition, M. C. Mehta v Union of India the honourable Supreme Court addressing the adverse effects of rising growth in the automobile industry which has become the major reason behind the rise of air pollution in India. The crucial issue in the application was regarding the sale and registration of vehicles which do not meet the Bharat Stage – IV emission standards, that are lying in stock with the manufacturers on and after 1st April 2017.

The honourable court in the instant case has held that on and from 1st April 2017 BS – IV compliant vehicles shall not be sold in India by any manufacturer or dealer. Also all the vehicle registering authorities under the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 are prohibited from registering such vehicles except on proof of being sold on or before 31st March 2017.

The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) had earlier submitted data on manufacturing and sale of BS-III vehicles on a monthly basis from January 2016 and told the court that the companies were holding stock of around 8.24 lakh such vehicles including 96,000 commercial vehicles, over six lakh two-wheelers and around 40,000 three-wheelers.

Why is the shift towards BS IV compliant vehicles important?

In 2014, the National Green Tribunal held that clean air is a fundamental right. Each emission standards regulates the release of pollutants from vehicles, and it is pretty evident that the BS IV vehicles will cause much lesser pollution when compared to the BS III compliant vehicles. The shift was already made in certain parts of the country before the apex court decided to ban the sale of the BS III compliant vehicles throughout the country.

The clichéd saying that every coin has two sides holds true when it comes to the new regulation implemented in the automobile industry as well.

With the advent of BS IV compliant vehicles all over the country people have cleaner air to breathe since the pollutants released from the said vehicles are comparatively much lesser to than that of any vehicle that has an emission standard lesser than that of the BS IV. The upgraded emission norms means higher fuel efficiency and it is being made available across the country. Also the government has been planning on a subsidy for those owners of older stage emission standard vehicles to upgrade their vehicles. On the other hand the oil industry has to have huge capital expenditures to produce the superior quality fuel for the vehicles which is going to increase the fuel bill, also needless to say the automobile manufacturers will also have huge expenditures in production of these vehicles which will also be passed on to the customers.


Prevention is always better than cure. The rise in pollution rates are startling. Being a developing nation there are many sources of pollution. Air is one among the basic necessity to sustain life and any substance contaminating it is a great matter of concern. Breathing polluted air can trigger many ailments and diseases. To get things under control stringent measures to stop contaminating the air more and more should be implemented and there should be an awareness creation to the public about these norms. Nobody in any of the countries of the world has voluntarily taken up the effort to do something that would help the situation therefore legal enforcement is a must. The recent verdict given by the apex court is a milestone towards a better India with cleaner air to breathe. Even though the decision of the court has been to the surprise and dismay of many automobile manufacturers who had with them huge stocks of vehicles of lower emission standards, they feel that the court has taken an unfair step as manufacturers who already have BS IV complaint vehicles with them.
The petrol powered passenger cars will be the fastest to adapt followed by two wheelers and diesel passenger cars. Commercial vehicles will have to go through a more engineered approach to meet the BS IV regulations. And most vehicles cannot be just retrofitted with these technologies and they will require a more complete approach to the problem of these unsold approach. But the contention put forward by these manufacturers who still have the BS III compliant vehicles cannot be accepted owing to the fact that the proposed date of shift to the new emission standard has been the same, it was not announced a day after or before the proposed date of shift.

The honourable court, preserving the best interest of the people has observed that the health of the people is more important than the commercial interests of automobile manufacturers.

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