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Court raps officials on auto meters

Jan. 22: Gauhati High Court today issued notices to three senior transport department officials seeking their replies regarding non-installation of fare meters in autorickshaws and excess fares charged by auto drivers.

The directive came after the court took suo moto cognisance of a letter written by a retired state government employee, Nandan Shyam Choudhury to Gauhati High Court Chief Justice A.K. Goel on December 3. Choudhury, a senior citizen of Guwahati Club area, in his letter had sought Goel’s intervention as autos were charging fares according to their will owing to the absence of fare meters.

Acting on the letter, the court registered suo moto public interest litigation (5/2013) on January 11 and today during the hearing, sought replies from transport secretary Dhruba Hazarika, transport commissioner Beni Madhab Doley and district transport officer (Kamrup) Gautam Das by the first week of February. The two-judge division bench of Justices Goel and A.K. Goswami fixed February 22 as the next date of hearing.

P.N. Choudhury, who has been appointed amicus curie (friend of the court) in the case, told The Telegraph, “Hazarika informed the chief justice that he has to use autorickshaws often as he faced problems in commuting in buses and cycle rickshaws. Besides, buses ply on some fixed routes and are overcrowded. But auto drivers were charging excess fares as they have no fare meters like in other cities.”

The complainant also urged Goel to issue orders to the department concerned regarding installation of fare meters and their enforcement as autorickshaw owners were harassing common people across the state.

“The three officers will have to inform the court why fare meters have not been installed in autos,” Choudhury said.

Since 2004, the transport department has issued several directives to auto owners and drivers in the city to install fare meters but the latter has overlooked them and charged fares arbitrarily.

The Regional Transport Authority (RTA) issued a fresh order on November 16 asking drivers and owners to install meters within three months. It fixed Rs 20 for the first 1km and Rs 1.90 for every 200 metres subsequently. It also announced that commuters would have to pay 50 per cent more than the regular fare between 9pm and 6am.

But the All Guwahati Autorickshaw Chalak Sangstha rejected the new fares and announced that they would not abide by the RTA directive as the fare was fixed without any discussions with them. The organisation also demanded that they should be called for discussion on the problems being faced by those plying autorickshaws in the city.

There are around 8,000 autos plying on the city streets without fare meters. As a result, passengers have to often pay excess fares and this leads to frequent quarrels between commuters and drivers.


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