National Green Tribunal imposes fine on German car maker Volkswagen for using notorious ‘cheat device’ in diesel cars in India.

After the infamous ‘dieselgate’ in the EU and US, VW India is now under fire from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for using the notorious ‘cheat device’ in their diesel cars in India. NGT slapped a Rs. 500 crore fine on the maker and directed the company to pay the full fine within a time of 2 months. This Rs. 500 crore fine has been increased from the Rs 171.34 crore that the company was earlier instructed to pay.

The fine amount will be used by the green tribunal to fund measures to improve air quality in NCR and other polluted parts of country. Earlier in November last year, the environment tribunal had instructed the German maker to deposit Rs. 100 crore as an interim amount with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as a punitive measure for using the cheat device.

NGT formed a 4-membered expert panel constituting CPCB, Ministry of Heavy Industries, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute. The panel took Delhi as the base city and found that the VW diesel cars with the cheat device emitted excess NOx (nitrogen oxide) to the tune of 48.678 tonnes in 2016 alone. The panel then recommended a fine of Rs. 171.34 crore for health damages caused by makers’ cars.

While the panel only recommended the fines of their findings for the city of Delhi, the basis of the new Rs. 500 crore fine remains unclear. While VW India has decided to contest the decision, the fine on a pan-India basis might still be conservative as the proper tools of determining the damage in such cases are not available and the fines were imposed for health damages alone.

In the report the NGT bench stated that Delhi alone was used as a base city for determining the fine of Rs. 171.34 crore. This value could be termed to be conservative because the proper methods of assessing the impact of NOx emissions on the environment of India are not available and only health damages were taken into consideration. Also, the unavailability of precise data regarding the exact location of VW vehicles operating in the city of Delhi for the years responsible for damage to the environment.   

The apex pollution monitoring body formed the 4-membered panel in November 2018 to look into the violations of the automotive giant and come up with a proper estimate of the damages caused by maker’s diesel vehicles.

Volkswagen Group too made an official remark stating that all cars of the maker in India complied with the environmental and emission norms in force in the country, and the company was awaiting a copy of the order issued by the green panel. The global carmaker also went ahead and further stated that they will challenge the judgment of the pollution monitoring body in the Supreme Court of India.

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