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Glare on cab owner in refusal & assault

The public vehicles department is set to showcause the owner of the taxi whose driver had pushed a 73-year-old woman off his vehicle on Park Street last Tuesday.

Mamata Pandit, a resident of 55B Sambhunath Pandit Street, and two friends had forced their way into the taxi after being apparently refused by a dozen other drivers. The trio wanted to go to Gariahat.

The PVD, which now accepts complaints over Facebook and email, has since tracked the owner of taxi number WB 04A 9961 and is in the process of sending a summons to the owner for a hearing at its Beltala office.

“The owner will have to come to the hearing and explain why that particular incident happened. We will also invite the women to the hearing so that the process can be completed and action initiated at the earliest,” C. Murugan, director of the PVD, said.

The summons would mention that the owner is liable to be charged with violating the no-refusal clause in the taxi permit against his name and slapped a fine of Rs 3,000.

Taxi refusal has long been rampant in Calcutta but it is only recently that stricter penalties have been introduced with a clause for revocation of permit if an offender fails to turn up for the hearing. “We can cancel the owner’s permit and pass the registration number to the police, if need be,” Murugan said.

Pandit was trying to get into the front passenger seat of WB 04A 9961 after being refused by the driver when she was greeted by a left-arm jab so hard that she was flung onto the road. The feisty 73-year-old got back into the car despite hurting her shoulder and lodged a complaint at Park Street police station when the driver stopped to tank up at the adjacent fuel station.

Although Pandit or her friends haven’t lodged a complaint with the transport department, the PVD has decided to act on its own, based on her first-person account in Metro on Thursday.

Sources in the PVD said the department found all the information required about the taxi owner in its database.

According to the West Bengal Motor Vehicles Rules, permits are to be issued to taxis on condition that drivers would not refuse passengers.

Section 120 of the rules states that no taxi can refuse passengers, charge more than the metered fare or ply as a shuttle car. Drivers are also required to ferry passengers through the shortest possible routes.

“Contravention of the rules invites a penalty under Section 192A of the Motor Vehicles Act, where the minimum fine is Rs 2,000,” a PVD official said. “We have decided to slap a fine of Rs 3,000 to send a stern message to taxi owners and drivers that refusal won’t be tolerated.”

If the PVD decides to cancel the driver’s licence and/or the taxi permit for refusing a passenger, it will automatically ensure that the offender doesn’t get a replacement from any other transport authority.

Apart from the owner of the taxi from which the elderly woman was pushed out, the PVD will be sending summons to 38 others who didn’t turn up for two previous hearings.