If you want to buy a budget car in Assam, you can’t do so anymore, at least temporarily. The Guwahati high court, whose jurisdiction includes Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, has ruled that all cars that weigh under 1,500 kilograms and that do not meet global crash test norms cannot be sold and registered in the north eastern state.
This ruling by the Guwahati High Court was in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that called for a ban on sale of cars that don’t meet global crash test safety requirements. The petitioners sought higher crash test safety norms on cars sold in Assam, stating that mountainous regions need cars with a higher safety rating.
Which cars have been affected?
This order of the court means that a wide swathe of cars, ranging from the Tata Nano at the lower end to the Honda City and Renault Duster at the higher end, cannot be sold in India. The key here is the 1,500 kilogram weight limitation that the court has based its ruling on. This limitation has effected nearly 140 car models sold in India.
Cars lighter than 1,500 kilograms, according to the order, can be sold in Assam only if they meet global crash test safety requirements. The court has agreed to hear this matter again on the 27th of August. Until then, sales and registration of cars and SUVs that weigh under 1,500 kilograms has been banned in Assam.
Are there any exceptions?
Heavier vehicles such as the Mahindra Scorpio, the Toyota Innova and the Tata Safari have not been affected by this order as they fall outside the 1,500 kilogram weight limit imposed by the court while delivering the latest ruling. The order of the Guwahati high court is likely to be challenged by both the car makers and the government of India.
Do these banned cars meet Indian crash safety requirements?
In a word, yes. Notably, all cars sold in India need to mandatorily pass the steering impact test, a type of the frontal crash test carried out by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), failing which they will not be given the homologation certificate. Without a homologation certificate, these cars cannot be sold in India.
What this means is, all cars that are sold in India have obtained the homologation certificate from ARAI, after clearing the mandatory steering impact test prescribed by the governmental agency. This is the reason they’re on sale today. To be fair to car makers, they have adhered to the laws of the land.
Also, many of the cars banned do have good Global NCAP crash test safety ratings. One example is the Volkswagen Polo with twin airbags, which has a 4 star rating. Another example is the Ford Figo with twin airbags, which also has a 4 star rating.
It must be noted that judicial activism is not a new to India, and the laws are subject to change. Time and again, the courts of justice have intervened in matters of public interest and have passed judgments taking both the government and private sector to task. This latest judgment by the Guwahati High Court is an example of public interest litigation (PIL) resulting in an order that affects large companies. In the past, the courts have also taken suo motu cognizance of certain issues and have intervened even without a petition.
After the Delhi Gang Rape incident, the Supreme Court of India heard a PIL seeking the ban of tints on vehicles. The court ruled in favour of the ban and ever since, tints have been completely banned in Iendia, save for exceptional cases. Recently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned all diesel cars that are over 10 years old from Delhi and National Capital Regions’ streets. The NGT has also banned 15 year old vehicles from Delhi roads. These bans are intended to improve air quality in the nation’s capital, which is extremely polluted at present.