Pay up Rs 100 crore today or face seizure: NGT tells Volkswagen India

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday came down heavily on Volkswagen (VW) India for failing to deposit the Rs 100-crore fine it had imposed on the carmaker last year and asked the company to deposit the same by 5 pm on Friday. 

If the company fails to deposit the said amount with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) by Friday, the NGT said it would order the arrest of the carmaker’s country managing director (MD) and order seizure of its properties in India. The risk of the carmaker’s MD being arrested and its properties in the country being seized will not, however, automatically peter out even if Volkswagen India deposited the money, the four-member Bench said in its order. 

Hearing a case filed against the carmaker for installation of software that allowed the company’s cars to cheat pollution testing devices, the NGT said that the carmaker had to deposit the Rs 100 crore with the CPCB and submit an affidavit of compliance. Volkswagen India had, during the hearing, sought seven days to deposit the money, but the time was refused by the NGT. “Why have you not complied with our order when there is no stay? We will not give you any further time,” a four-member Bench of NGT led by Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said. 

Though the matter is already under challenge before Supreme Court (SC), the company would comply with the NGT order and deposit the money as directed, Volkswagen Group India spokesperson said. Volkswagen India had also sought adjournment of the case till after the SC had heard the matter on January 21. The request too was, however, denied by the NGT. 

The NGT had on November 16 last year asked the carmaker to deposit an interim amount of Rs 100 crore with the CPCB after it was found that the firm’s cars had used ‘defeat device’ to cheat emission tests in India. A ‘cheat’ or ‘defeat device’ is software which allows car companies to manipulate emission tests by altering performance of their engines. The tribunal had observed that though Volkswagen had recalled its cars to fix the software, following the revelation of presence of the cheat device, the fact that there were such devices present would have led to some inference of environmental and thus, caused damage. “The very fact of deceit devices being installed by the manufacturer calls for an inference of prima-facie violation of environment,” the NGT had then said.

The green court had then also formed a team of representatives of the CPCB, Ministry of Heavy Industries, Automotive Research Association of India, and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute to determine the fair estimate the damage caused to the environment due to the diesel cars belonging to Volkswagen. The panel, in its report, had said that Volkswagen should pay at least Rs 171.34 crore as a “conservative” fine for the damage its cars caused to environment and general health in India.

In December 2015, following the discovery of defeat devices installed in the cars of the company, Volkswagen India had recalled 323,700 vehicles to fix the emission software. Tests conducted in India had found that some models of the car were emitting pollutants as much as 1.1 to 2.6 times higher than applicable Bharat Stage-IV norms.