The Bombay High Court on Tuesday gave its nod to the state government to go ahead with the revised minimum fares — Rs 21 and Rs 17 — for taxis and auto rickshaws, respectively. The new fares will be effective only on the condition that vehicle owners recalibrate their meters. The current minimum fare for taxis is Rs 19 and for autos Rs 15.
The HC said, “If nothing is arbitrary or irrational in the decision of the state to hike fare, the court’s decision would amount to abuse of power.” In addition, the court also observed the main objective of electronic meters was to serve common people.
“If the driver of autorickshaws and taxis are allowed to charge higher fares without re-calibration, the very objective of introducing electronic meters will be lost,” said Justices A S Oka and A S Chandurkar.
The court was acting on an application made by the state government seeking directions for the implementation of revised fares and a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by consumer body Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, challenging the proposed Rs 2 fare hike for taxis and autorickshaws.
“As far as constraints of power of writ court is concerned, when it is a matter of policy decision, law is settled. It is best to leave matters of policy decisions to experts,” observed the court.
The court also recorded the undertaking given by state Advocate General Darius Khambata to finish the process of calibration within 45 days.
Rejecting interim reliefs sought in the PIL, the court stated that the new fares would come into effect from Tuesday midnight.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority (MMRTA) proposed fare hike and forwarded its request to the government. Consequently, the government moved the high court earlier this month as the fare had to be implemented from July 10, as per the recommendations of the Hakim Committee.
HC had stayed the fare hike in 2012, following the PIL of the consumer body. The HC, therefore, ruled that the state could not implement the fare hike without its (HC) permission.
According to a Regional Transport official, recalibration exercise should start by August 18. “On an average, 1,000- 1,500 autos will have their meters re-calibrated every day,” said the official.