January 24, 2018
CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Wednesday dismissed a public interest litigation against the bus fare hike which came into effect in the State from 20 January.
Hearing the petition filed by one V. Munikrishnan, Chief Justice Indira Banerjee said court cannot interfere in the administrative decision of the government.
“Rates of many things increase. Can the Court interfere in each and every thing?” the Bench asked. It, however, wanted the fares to be displayed in all government and private buses.
Munikrishnan submitted that he came to know through the print and visual media that the State government has hiked the bus fares, citing various reasons such as increase in diesel prices, spare parts, maintenance and salaries.
He said, as per statistics, 80 per cent of the people use buses for travelling, particularly the poor and middle class as it was more affordable compared to other modes of transport.
The petitioner alleged that the State Government has been spending huge amounts of public money for achieving their political goals and shifting the burden on public by saying that there is a financial crisis in the transport department.
The sudden and steep fare hike had put people to irreparable hardship, Munikrishnan said, adding that those dependent on the bus services are now forced to spend 25 per cent of their salary as transport expenses. “When people were already suffering due to the Goods and Services Tax (GST), demonetisation and price hike in other basic necessities, the State government has hiked the bus fare against the welfare of the public,” he added.
On January 19, the Tamil Nadu Government hiked fares of buses under the State-run transport corporations and private entities by about 20 to 54.54 per cent. The Government also announced a fund for accident compensation and prevention, besides a panel to go into the restructuring of bus fares in the future. It cited factors for the hike, including increase in fuel price and maintenance, annual increment in salaries, pension and purchase of the new buses to increase efficiency.
A recent interim direction of the Madras High Court in a transport-related petition was also cited to support the decision to effect a hike in fares.
Workers of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation owing allegiance to 17 trade unions, including those affiliated to the DMK and Left parties, went on strike on January 4 after failure of talks with the Government on wage revision.
While the unions wanted a 2.57 times hike, the Government offered only 2.44, resulting in a stalemate. The strike severely crippled public sector bus services, causing immense hardship to the public, including office-goers in the cities though the government tried to maintain the services by roping in temporary drivers and private buses. It was later withdrawn following court intervention.