Maha told to form a broader panel to decide fare hike
Mumbai: Coming down heavily on Maharashtra government for accepting one-man committee's recommendation to hike auto and cab fares in the city, Bombay High Court on Friday asked it to set up a panel of experts to look into the issue.
"How can you (state government) have just one man to look into an issue like price fixation. This is not the correct way to go about. You cannot leave such matters entirely to one retired civil servant," a division bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Amjad Sayed said.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by an NGO, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, challenging the state's decision to allow a significant hike in auto and taxi fares in Mumbai.
The government had taken the decision based on a report submitted by PMA Hakeem committee. Hakeem was transport secretary in the state government.
"When you take such a decision, you are not only dealing with the livelihood of certain section of people but also with the burden that will fall on the common man.
The government should have formed a broader-based committee. You cannot entrust such a process to one man," Justice Chandrachud said.
The bench said the government needs to set up a proper mechanism and invite experts from various fields like finance, auditing, transport and certain representations of public and then consider issues of price fixation.
"By basing its decision on the report of one man, the government has allowed public to raise questions that the decision was taken by interest groups. A large part of consumer grievance is lack of transparency.
"Consumers should be convinced that the price hike was done due to unavoidable circumstances like hike in fuel price," the court observed.
"Do not entrust this job to just one person. The world has now become complex and cannot be ruled by just one person. Having a broader committee will protect the government from the charge of being partisan," Justice Chandrachud said.
The bench has directed the government to consider setting up a committee comprising of experts from diverse fields to look into the present price hike and also in future. The matter will be heard on October 31.