The minibus that fell on its side at the Dorina crossing in Esplanade in the central business district on Sunday afternoon, leaving 27 passengers injured, had been plying without valid documents for more than three years, according to transport department records.
The driver of the minibus, Sarfaraz Khan, 27, has been arrested. He has purportedly told the police that the steering wheel went out of control and the brake stopped working.
It took the bus to topple on one of the city’s busiest roads for police and the transport authorities to wake up to the gross violation of rules.
State transport minister Firhad Hakim said on Monday he had instructed the transport secretary to ask all Regional Transport Offices to prevent unauthorised vehicles from plying. “I have asked the transport secretary to alert all RTOs so that no illegal vehicles ply,” Hakim said on Monday afternoon.
On Sunday, a few hours after the accident, Hakim had said he had sent a WhatsApp message to Kolkata police commissioner asking the force to conduct more checks on such vehicles.
The transport department records, in possession of this newspaper, reveals that the mini bus on the Park Circus-Bankra (Howrah) route had been plying without a valid fitness certificate since November 2018.
The owner has not renewed insurance for the bus since 2018 and paid road tax since 2020. The bus also has no pollution-under-control certificate over the past two years.
On Sunday, it was ferrying around 40 people to an engagement ceremony in Howrah when it met with the accident.
According to motor vehicles rules, a commercial vehicle has to renew its fitness certificate every two years after five years from registration. Without a valid certificate of fitness, the vehicle’s registration is considered cancelled.
The police tried to pass the blame to the transport department.
An officer said: “We can carry out random checks. But only the transport department has the list of commercial vehicles that have not renewed their documents.”
An officer of the traffic department said the police did not have the power to seize a vehicle even if it was found to be running without a certificate of fitness.
“Only the motor vehicles inspectors are empowered to impound vehicles,” said the officer.
A transport department official said they had listed details of commercial vehicles without valid fitness certificates. “We will share the list with the police so that those vehicles can be targeted,” he said.