21 Nov 2023 4:50 AM GMT
The Kerala High Court on Monday considered a petition filed by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) seeking measures to restrict the operation of All India Tourist Permit vehicles through the nationalized routes and scheme covered ROUTES formulated under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (MV Act, 1988). During the hearing, Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh asked how KSRTC could challenge...
The Kerala High Court on Monday considered a petition filed by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) seeking measures to restrict the operation of All India Tourist Permit vehicles through the nationalized routes and scheme covered ROUTES formulated under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (MV Act, 1988).
During the hearing, Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh asked how KSRTC could challenge an amendment brought by the Central Government in the Rules, in this case.
The Court thus sought the response of the Central Government in the matter.
The plea by the KSRTC is against tourist buses, with All India Tourist Permit, operating as stage carriers by picking up and dropping passengers en route, with regular daily trips, on specified routes with destination boards, and by fixing fares individually based on the distance to be travelled.
The matter came to light when the Motor Vehicles Department of the State took action against a tourist bus operated by Robin Travels on the Pathanamthitta-Coimbatore route.
KSRTC averred in its plea that under the MV Act, 1988, two types of permits are issued for public service vehicles for transport of passengers, namely - stage carriers which operate as a regular bus for passengers, and where the entire route is broken in various 'stages' till the destination; and contract carriage where the route is defined from one destination to another.
It was submitted that the Central Government recently issued the 'All India Tourist Vehicles (Permit) Rules, 2023, which provides for the issuance of a permit to enable a tourist vehicle operator to ply a tourist vehicle throughout the country.
The petitioner contended that although the Rules unequivocally define a tourist vehicle as a contract carriage, many tourist vehicle operators resorted to operating their contract carriages as stage carriages on the ground that the provisions of the Rules enable operators with All India Tourist Permits to enter into individual contracts with passengers, and thus pick up and drop passengers en route.
It added that the provisions Rule 6(2) which states that the All India Tourist Permit shall be used for the transport of tourists individually or in a group, along with their personal luggage, and Rule 10(1) which stipulates that a tourist vehicle plying under the All India Tourist Permit, shall at all times carry a list of tourists in electronic form or in physical form, are inconsistent with the definitions 'contract carriages', and 'tourist vehicles'.
"The tourist bus operators enjoy the benefit of fixing fares on a mutually fixed or agreed rate or sum as provided in Section 2(7) of the Act while the stage carriage operators have to adhere to the fare fixation by the government. They can also ply without adhering to any timetable or schedule which can completely disrupt the timetable fixed by the Regional Transport Authorities concerning a particular area. Moreover, 2023 Rules also exempt the conditions prescribed in Rules 82 to 85A of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, which mandates that a tourist permit holder shall not operate the tourist vehicle as a stage carriage. Therefore it is clear that Rule 6(2) and Rule 10(1) of the 2023 Rules are contrary to the provisions of the Act of 1988 and hence, liable to be struck down," the plea states.
The petitioner thus seeks the declaration of Rule 6(2) of the Rules, 2023, insofar as it permits use of an All India Tourist Permit for transportation of tourists individually; Rule 10(1) which permits entry into separate contracts with passengers with separate purpose and destination; and Rule 13(1) insofar as it exempts All India Tourist Permit holders from adhering to the conditions of Central Motor Vehicles Rules to not operate as stage carriage, as ultra vires the provisions of the MV Act, 1988.
The matter has been posted for further consideration on December 18, 2023.
The plea has been moved through Advocates Deepu Thankan, Ummul Fida, Lakshmi Sreedhar, Lekshmi P. Nair, and Namitha K.M.
Case Title: Kerala State Road Transport Corporation v. Union of India & Ors.
Case Number: W.P.(C) 38410/ 2023