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EPCA directions are mandatory, legally mandated: Sunita Narain

IANS | New Delhi |

The Environment Pollution Control Authority’s (EPCA) directions to “immediately” slash metro fares and hike parking fees today put authorities in Delhi in a spot, but the law is clear that the Supreme Court-appointed body’s orders are binding.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) said it was yet to take a decision on slashing fares temporarily, while municipal bodies argued their standing committees will have to clear the decision on enhancing parking fees first.

When contacted, EPCA member Sunita Narain told PTI that the orders are legally mandated. The decisions have been conveyed to the chief secretaries of the states who will in turn ensure their implementation, she said.

“All these measures are part of the GRAP. These are legally mandated and will not have to be cleared by any standing committee,” she said.

In fact, it was the Environment Ministry which empowered the EPCA through a gazette notification to enforce the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to combat air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region.

“In pursuance of sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (29 of 1986), the central government hereby assigns the task of implementation of the Graded Response Action Plan to the EPCA…” the January 12 notification read.

The decision to hike parking fees, augment metro services and introduce differential rates are part of measures under the GRAP’s ‘severe’ category action plan, which was cleared by the Supreme Court last year.

However, Preeti Agarwal, North MCD mayor said: “The matter (to enhance parking fees) will be first brought to the House (of the corporation). Unless it is cleared, we cannot implement it.”

NDMC officials said they cannot immediately comment on implementation of the directive on hiking parking fees.

“The plan will have to be placed before the council which will deliberate on its feasibility. Then only we will be able to comment on the issue,” a senior NDMC official said.

Officially, the Delhi Metro remained mum on its future course of action. Metro fares were increased on October 10, following a bitter tussle between the Centre and the Delhi government.

The Delhi government had opposed the fare hike but the Centre had refused to back down saying the increase was as per the recommendations of a fare fixation panel (FFC), which cannot be tampered with.

During the tussle, the DMRC had written to the Urban Development Ministry that “the FFC’s recommendations are binding on the Metro Rail administration as per provisions of Section-37 of this Act (Metro Act).”

“Neither the central government nor the state government or even the board of the company has legal power to change the recommendations made by the FFC,” it had said.

The DMRC is run as per the provisions of the Metro Railways (Operations and Maintenance) Act, 2002.