High Court strikes down Punjab mini-bus scheme

In a significant development, the Punjab and Haryana High Court, on Wednesday, quashed the Punjab Mini Bus Service Scheme 2010 and declared the issuance of such bus permits and their renewal as illegal, null and void.

A division bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and R P Nagrath, while disposing a bunch of petitions filed against the the transportation policies of Punjab and Haryana, also held that stage carriage permits issued to private operators under a Haryana scheme, dated November 3, 1993, are illegal and cannot be validated or renewed under any subsequent scheme.

In case of Punjab, 10 petitions were filed seeking directions to strike down a scheme dated August 9, 1990 formulated by Punjab as also the subsequent modifications made in the scheme thereafter and the Punjab Mini Bus Service Scheme 2010.

The petitioners also sought directions for the issuance of permits on non-nationalised routes and the issue of stage carriage permits in accordance with Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and sought an inquiry to unearth the alleged malpractices of the concerned officials at the office of state transport commissioner.

The court noted that none of the state transport undertakings (STUs) sent any proposal nor did the Punjab government seek their opinion before formulating the 'Punjab Mini Bus Service Scheme, 2010.'

After taking stock of the situation, the bench held that even after two years of the scheme coming into operation, no permit has been granted to any STU for any indicative or monopoly route.

" The private mini bus operators, however, whose operations have been 'protected' are undoubtedly thriving upon their monopoly on such routes. The very coining of phrase 'Mini Bus' is alien to the legislative scheme of 1988 Act ..." , the bench asserted.

"All the permits issued or renewed under the Scheme dated August 9, 1990, modified on October 21, 1997, under the Punjab Mini Bus Services Scheme, 2007 which lapsed on November 14, 2008 as well as those issued under the 2010 Scheme, are hereby declared illegal, null and void...", added the judgement

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