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SC to hear Manali taxi operators plea against NGT order

The Supreme Court will hear on Friday an appeal by the tourist taxi operators operating between Manali and Rohtang challenging the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order restricting operation of to just 1,000 taxis per day coupled with an environmental compensation charge.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court will hear on Friday an appeal by the tourist taxi operators operating between Manali and Rohtang challenging the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order restricting operation of to just 1,000 taxis per day coupled with an environmental compensation charge.

A vacation bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit agreed to hear the matter on Friday as senior counsel Vibha Datta Makhija on Wednesday mentioned the matter telling the court that although private vehicles, government vehicles and army vehicles were being allowed to drive on the Manali-Rohtang stretch unrestricted but the movement of tourist vehicles have been capped.

Makhija, who appeared for the petitioner Him Aanchal Taxi Operators Union, told the court that for tourist taxi operators, this was only a seasonal earning and not only the number of tourists vehicles that will leave Manali for Rohtang every day has been restricted to just 1,000 but they have to pay Rs.2,500 as environmental compensation charge for the every trip undertaken.

"They will charge from the tourist. They will not pay from their own pocket," the court said as Makhija told the court that taxi operators were charging Rs.1,500 from a tourist and the environmental charge was Rs.2,500.

While keeping in abeyance its earlier February 6, 2014 order banning the plying of diesel and petrol tourist vehicles on Manali-Rohtang, the NGT by its May 5 order has said of the 1,000 tourist vehicles that would be allowed to ply on Manali-Rohtang stretch, 600 will be petrol vehicles and 400 diesel vehicles.

The NGT order has said petrol and diesel tourist vehicles would be subject of BS-IV standards of pollution check and while petrol vehicles would be paying Rs.1,000 per trip as environmental compensation and diesel vehicles would be paying Rs.2,500 per trip.

The order had further said that each vehicles that would be carrying more than six passengers would be paying environmental compensation of Rs.5,000.

The NGT said that money collected by way of environmental compensation would be kept under a separate account and "shall be utilised only for the purpose of restoration of ecology and environment in the said eco-sensitive area" as per its directions.