The high court has slammed the brakes on the government move to phase out old public vehicles from within city limits.
The single bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose on Thursday quashed the state government's notification (3390'WT /8S'78/2004, dated July 29) imposing a blanket ban on 'all commercial vehicles of 1975 make or earlier' within the Calcutta Metropolitan Area (CMA).
The transport department notification stated that henceforth, 'no permit, permanent or temporary, both goods and passenger, in respect of vehicles of mode of 1975 make or earlier there to' was to be issued 'in the interest of reduction in the level of automobile pollution and safety of passengers, as well as safe movements of the vehicular traffic on road'.
Justice Bose observed that the notification was bad in law and ultra vires to the Constitution. The judge also said that the department had not followed the procedures and norms of Motor Vehicles Act while issuing the notification.
Several organisations of public vehicle owners had challenged the notification in high court this August, close on the heels of a writ petition filed by schoolbus owner Biswanath Das.
Appearing for them, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya and Pratap Chatterjee argued that if the order of the transport department was implemented, more than 40 per cent public vehicles would be forced out of the CMA and cause further harassment to commuters.
Advocate-general Balai Ray and advocate Dilip De had claimed that the transport department notification would benefit the commuter. 'In Delhi and Mumbai, vehicles older than eight years are not allowed to ply. Chennai does not allow public vehicles more than 15 years old. Why should the transport department allow 30-year-old vehicles in Calcutta' they demanded.
Advocate Jagdish Gupta, representing Biswanath Das, told Metro on Thursday that the 'Central, not the state government' can fix the age of roadworthy vehicles and two sets of norms for CMA and beyond would flout an existing green bench order.
S. M. Ghosh from the transport lobby criticised the government for its repeated failure to implement methods to reduce pollution levels while resorting to 'such unconstitutional steps'.