German Auto Major Volkswagen Accused Of Flouting Emission Norms

February 8, 2016

In an ongoing petition initiated by a Delhi based teacher to evaluate whether German auto major, Volkswagen was using the ‘Defeat Device’ in India, the National Green Tribunal in Saloni Ailawadi vs. Union of India & Ors. (Ministry of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Environment and Forest, Central Pollution Control Board) (Original Application No. 509/2015) vide its order dated January 6, 2016 directed the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) to investigate the matter and prepare a report on the same.

Brief Facts

  • After Volkswagen admitted to flouting the emission tests in the US by using a device known as the Defeat Device, a software which manipulates the emission tests by changing the performance of the vehicle to improve results in the lab, the Government of India on September 24, 2015 had written to the apex vehicle testing agency – Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) in Pune to evaluate Volkswagen cars and check if the car maker uses the Defeat Device in India to fudge test reports.
  • The Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), on November 4, 2015, found the pollution levels to be more than 9 times the permissible levels in on-road vehicles of 3 Volkswagen models compared to laboratory measurements.
  • As per the ARAI test results, Volkswagen’s Jetta and Vento, Skoda’s Octavia and Audi models A4 and A6 were found to be emitting more nitrogen oxide than permitted. The tests were conducted on vehicles made by Volkswagen in India many of which are merely assembled whereas, their main manufacturing is done in Germany.
  • On November 20, 2015, a Delhi based teacher, Ms. Saloni Ailwadi, moved the National Green Tribunal against Volkswagen. The Petition called for a stop to manufacturing, assembly and sale of vehicles manufactured by Volkswagen and its group of companies until they clear the prescribed pollution norms in India.

Submissions by the Petitioner, Ms. Saloni Ailwadi

The Petitioner stated that the mischief of installing a device or a software designed to evade emission norms was being practiced by Volkswagen in the US and Germany and in that regard the Governments of USA and Germany have taken a strict view and penalized the manufacturing companies. It was further stated that this mischief has not only harmed the people in USA and European Countries but this harm is also involuntarily shared by Indians as a result of sharing of the common environment world over.

Notice Issued by the National Green Tribunal

On the first hearing which was scheduled on November 30, 2015, the National Green Tribunal issued a notice to Volkswagen, the Ministry of Heavy Industry as well as the Ministry of Environment on alleged violations by Volkswagen India.

Submissions by the Respondent

  • That the manufacturing companies do not wish to transgress law and are willing to give an undertaking that they will manufacture and sell only such vehicles in India which are strictly in compliance with the prescribed norms in force in India.
  • ThThat the investigation report by ARAI was placed before the Tribunal in the hearing scheduled on February 4, 2016. However on the said date, the Respondents have sought more time to file their respective replies and the National Green Tribunal has granted them two weeks to file their replies.

Volkswagen’s Reaction

  • As per media reports, Volkswagen has apologized publicly for the emission scandal in India and reiterated that its cars follow the country’s norms and the recall of three lakh vehicles is a voluntary step taken by it.
  • In India, Volkswagen has announced to recall vehicles across its three brands i.e. Audi, Skoda and Volkswagen.
  • Volkswagen plans to update the engines of approximately 300,000 (3 Lakh) vehicles that it recalled in India after a government-ordered probe found it using diesel engines equipped with a defeat device which help cheat emission tests.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to mention here that in a bid to reduce the extreme pollution levels in Delhi, the Delhi Government had recently introduced the odd-even rule on a 15 day trial basis, under which cars having odd-numbered plates were allowed to ply on odd dates and cars having even-numbered plates were allowed to ply on even dates, with a hefty penalty being imposed on defaulters. Thus, the rising pollution is indeed an important concern which is being taken by the Government.

The abovementioned case is listed for further hearing on February 26, 2016 and the matter will be watched keenly by one and all.

The latest order dated February 4, 2016 of the National Green Tribunal in this case can be accessed here.

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