In what may translate into a major relief for the passengers,the apex court on Friday gave the go-ahead to the Delhi Transport Authority to permit 1 lakh more auto-rickshaws to ply on city roads. In doing so,the bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and C K Prasad lifted the freeze on grants of new permits that the court has imposed by a direction on December 16,1997.
Delhi has 53,262 registered three-wheelers as of August 31,2004,running on compressed natural gas (CNG). The last time the Supreme Court allowed an increase in number of autos was in December 2002,when it allowed issuance of 5,000 new permits.
In 1997,the apex court had directed that there shall be no fresh registration of auto-rickshaws,also known as three-wheeler scooter rickshaws (TSRs),as they were running on two or four-stroke petrol or diesel engines contributing to the pollution in Delhi. It had,however,permitted the existing autos to be replaced by new ones. However,even after the old autos were converted into CNG-propelled TSRs,the restriction on fresh registration continued,leading to shortage of autos and causing harassment to passengers.
The Transport department had filed an application,seeking permission to increase the number of autos on the ground that they play a very important role as intermediate public transport.
It is further submitted that the limitation on induction of fresh auto-rickshaws for public transportation has increased the incidents of misbehaviour,overcharging and refusal to carry passengers. At present,the auto-rickshaws are operating in a sellers market. Increasing the number of auto-rickshaws will help us to control the incidence of misbehaviour and this will be in the interest of commuters, the application said.
During the hearing,the Transport department also told the court that there was a crisis due to monopoly and shortage of TSRs in Delhi. It also said the population of Delhi had increased from 93 lakh in 1997 to 1.4 crore in 2002.