The high court on Monday asked the state government to legalise battery-run three-wheelers, popular as totos, by issuing them licences.
The division bench of acting Chief Justice Asim Kumar Banerjee and Justice Arijit Banerjee turned down an interim order of another division bench of the court and allowed the battery-run vehicles to ply from Howrah station to Ramrajatala and from Howrah station to Chattabazar.
“This court is not passing any interim order to restrain the battery-run vehicles. Instead, we are asking the local and the state administrations to take measures so that these vehicles can be issued licences as early as possible,” the bench said.
The bench made the observation while hearing a petition of bus operators on routes 52 and 58 in Howrah, pleading for a ban on the unlicensed totos.
The buses on route 52 ply between Ramrajatala and Howrah station, and those on route 58 run between Chattabazar and the station.
“A toto is neither a vehicle nor a rickshaw. They are operating without a licence, route permit and insurance,” said Sheikh Shamim Akhtar, the lawyer for the petitioners.
The bus operators moved the court following an interim order of the bench of former Chief Justice Arun Kumar Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi on June 8, restraining the battery-run vehicles between Bally and Rishra in Hooghly.
“Today’s order has lifted the bar on the Hooghly totos as well,” lawyer Kallol Guha Thakurta said.
The bench headed by former chief justice had held that since the Motor Vehicles Act lacked a provision for issuing licences to battery-run cars, the government could not legalise totos without amending the law.
A transport department source said the government was considering amending the act.
“Totos do not cause pollution as they run on battery and carry more passengers that autos. So the government is thinking of amending the Motor Vehicles Act to legalise totos,” said an official.
More than 400 totos ply in Howrah district. “In the next two months, there will be close to 1,500 totos,” said Ajai Singh, the president of the Howrah district battery-operated car organisation.
The Eastern Railway’s ticket reservation offices will remain open on Sundays and holidays in August to tackle the rush for bookings during the Puja holidays.
The offices will remain open on August 3, 10, 15, 17 and 24 during the morning shift.