New Delhi: In a boon to thousands of harried
passengers in the capital, the Supreme Court on Friday cleared the
decks for plying of one lakh new auto-rickshaws that could
bring down the constant complaints of overcharging and
misbehaviour by their drivers.
A special forest bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and
C K Prasad gave the signal on an application moved by the
Delhi Transport Authority as early as 2002 for lifting the
freeze imposed by the apex court in its earlier direction of
December 16, 1997.
According to senior counsel and amicus curiae P S
Narasimha and Delhi government counsel Wasim Ahmed Quadri,
with today`s direction the administration can now grant
permission for playing of another one lakh new autos in the
In 1997, the apex court had directed that there shall be
no fresh registration of auto-rickshaws, also known as
three-wheeler scooter rickshaws (TSRs), as they were running
on two or four stroke petrol engines contributing to the
severe pollution in Delhi. It had, however, permitted the
existing autos to be replaced by new ones.
Subsequently, the autos were converted into single-fuel
CNG-propelled vehicles, but the restriction on the fresh
registration resulted in malpractices by the auto-owners and
In its application, the transport department had sought
increase in the number of autos on the ground that they play
a "very important" role as intermediate public transport in
"It is further submitted that the limitation on induction
of fresh auto-rickshaws for public transportation has
increased the incidents of misbehaviour, overcharging and
refusal to carry passengers. Presently, the auto-rickshaws
are operating in a seller`s market. Increasing the number of
auto-rickshaws will help us to control the incidence of
misbehaviour and this will be in the interest of commuters.
"Now, in view of the fact that most of the existing TSRs
are on CNG mode, there is no reason to restrict the fresh
registration of TSRs," the department had said.
Delhi has around 53,262 registered three-wheelers as of
August 31, 2004 running on compressed natural gas (CNG).
By the December 1997 order, the apex court had imposed a
cap on issuing fresh permits for three-wheelers in Delhi.
Registration was allowed only on replacement basis. In
December 2002, however, the court allowed a further increase
of 5,000 three wheelers.
According to the department, taking advantage of the
replacement scheme, a few persons purchased the old permits
illegally and some of them were possessing more than even 50
TSRs and had created monopoly.
"The crisis of TSRs as on today is due to the said
monopoly and shortage of TSRs in the NCT of Delhi. It is
further submitted that the population of Delhi has increased
from 93 lakhs in 1997 to 1.4 crore in 2002 and the demand for
cheap public transport has gone up since 1997," the
application had said.