The Delhi High Court Wednesday dismissed a petition challenging the AAP government’s proposal to make metro free for women, saying it is for the authorities to decide on giving concession to a particular class. A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar refused to entertain the plea, saying there is no substance in it and imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 on the petitioner to be deposited within four weeks.
The court also rejected the prayer in the petition seeking reduction of fares and to make 15 slabs of the ticket price instead of existing six. “Fixation of fares is a statutory function and the process of fixation is complex which involves consideration of several factors, including cost. All these factors cannot be determined in a PIL,” the bench said. It said the petitioner, advocate Bipin Bihari Singh, has failed to point out any illegality in fixation of fares and added that the court will be “extremely slow” in fixing the fares for Delhi Metro which is the prerogative of the government.
With Assembly polls due early next year in the city, the Aam Aadmi Party government in June announced that it has proposed to make metro and bus travels free for women in Delhi “to encourage them to use public transport”. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said the Delhi government will bear the travel expenses of women.
The court also noted that two similar petitions relating to Delhi Metro fares were filed earlier as well and they were not entertained either. “We are not inclined to give any direction, much less in the nature of mandamus to respondents no. 1 to 3 (Delhi government, union of India and DMRC) on fixation of fares which prevailing today,” the bench said.
Regarding the prayer that Delhi government be directed not to take any step to make metro ride free for women, the court observed that though this plea has been made, it has not been argued by the petitioner. The bench said it was left open for the authorities to give or not to give any concession to a particular class in metro ride fares. It was informed by Delhi government additional standing counsel Sanjoy Ghosh that the plea was premature as presently no such exemption has been given to the women to travel in the metro and the proposal is still under consideration.
Union of India was represented by Central government standing counsel Gaurang Kanth. The petition challenged the proposal of Delhi government to make metro ride free for women saying such a move would create a parallel arbitrary discrimination against other poorer sections of the society who find it economically difficult to travel in metro after ticket prices were hiked. It said none of the first three fare fixation committees constituted earlier had recommended such a drastic increase in fares in Delhi metro.
“The number of fare slabs which stood at 15 for the last over 11 years from December 2005 to May 2017, has been unfairly reduced to six slabs… Therefore, a reduction in fares would not only bring a lot of relief to the passengers travelling in metro but would also increase the ridership,” it said.
The plea sought a direction to the authorities to revise and reduce the current fares and to bring down the price at the level which is affordable for the common masses.