The Delhi high court on Monday refused to interfere with the Aam Aadmi Party government’s odd-even vehicles policy to control rising air pollution in the city, observing that restrictions under the scheme were only till January 15.
The court, however, directed the government to take into consideration the contents of the petitions, which had challenged the government’s scheme, before taking any further future of action.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath said, though the implementation of the scheme may have caused hardship to a section of society, “power of judicial review cannot be extended to determine correctness of such policy decision”.
“Keeping in view that restrictions under notification are only for a limited period of 15 days and it is stated that the scheme has been enforced as a pilot project to ascertain the reduction, if any, of pollution levels, we are of the view that interference by this court is not warranted,” it said.
The court also said in its 12-page order, “Implementation may have caused hardship to a section of the society, however, the power of judicial review cannot be extended to determine the correctness of such policy decision or to find out whether there could be more appropriate or better alternatives.”
“It’s neither within domain of the courts nor the scope of judicial review to embark upon an enquiry as to whether a particular public policy is wise or whether a better public policy can be evolved as suggested by petitioners,” the bench added.
It also observed that “law is well settled that on matters affecting policy, courts will not interfere unless the policy is unconstitutional or contrary to statutory provisions or arbitrary or irrational or in abuse of power.
“Since, the policy decisions are taken based on expert knowledge of person concerned, courts are normally not equipped to question the correctness of a policy decision,” the bench said.
On January 8, the high court had reserved its order on the pleas challenging the scheme after Delhi government defended its stand on the issue saying per capita toxic gas emission had declined due to lesser number of cars on city roads.
The high court had earlier questioned the impact of the odd-even operation on pollution and asked the AAP government to consider restricting the programme, slated for a fortnight till January 15, to a week.
The court’s order came on a bunch of petitions filed by various individuals, including lawyers, who had challenged the AAP government’s December 28, 2015 notification imposing the scheme which allows private cars bearing odd registration numbers to ply on odd dates and those with even numbers on even dates.
The petitions had contended that AAP government carried out a pick-and-choose policy against car owners, whereas 46 per cent pollution was caused by trucks.
Delhi High Court Bar Association President Rajiv Khosla, one of the petitioners, said the data submitted by the city government was not correct and the particulate matter across the capital showed a rising trend despite the scheme being in place since January 1.
Defending the scheme, the government had said it aimed at reducing congestion on the capital’s roads that has further contributed towards lowering of pollution.
The AAP government had contended that particulate and nitrogen-oxide load from cars have come down during odd-even programme by as much as 40 per cent and higher share of benefits have come from reduction in the number of diesel cars.