The Supreme Court has upheld the West Bengal government’s power to prevent stage carriage buses entering Kolkata in order to decongest roads and curb pollution.
The apex court verdict was delivered by a bench of Justices R.V. Raveendran and P. Sathasivam Monday, upholding the West Bengal State Transport Authority’s power to deny permits or curtail routes of stage carriage buses.
The authority refused to accept permit applications for two bus routes — one between Dhulian Bazar to Kolkata via Raghunathganj and Barasat and another from Raghunathganj to Kolkata via Barasat – filed in 1997 and 1998 and instead, offered permits for curtailed bus routes from Dhulian Bazar to Barasat, and Raghunathganj to Barasat respectively in a bid to prevent the buses from entering Kolkata.
The decision was challenged in the Calcutta High Court. The high court asked the authority to consider applications afresh as the refusal letters did not give any grounds for rejecting them.
The authority lost the case before a division bench of the high court.
On April 2, 2001, the high court held that when permits were sought for the routes -Dhulian Bazar to Kolkata and Raghunathganj to Kolkata – the authority could not have offered permits by curtailing the routes, thereby changing the terminus from Kolkata to Barasat.
The authority then moved the Supreme Court, which upheld its powers to grant permits by curtailing any route short of Kolkata.
The West Bengal government had said that entry of vehicles into Kolkata was being restricted in a phased manner as per the recommendations of a technical committee.
The committee had examined road space, availability of halting space, terminus and related matters and submitted its recommendations to the state.
The state government then issued a notification dated Aug 2, 2004, directed all regional transport authorities not to allow any new bus route which may pass through the central business district viz. Esplanade and Band Stand in Kolkata and Howrah station and approach areas of Howrah Bridge till further orders.
It also asked them not to issue permits for stage carriages which may originate or terminate in Esplanade and Band Stand in Kolkata and Howrah Station.
The notification also asked them not to permit any new bus route in Kolkata and Howrah without creating parking space with requisite amenities for both passengers and transport workers.
The validity of that notification was upheld by the high court Sep 27, 2005.
The state claimed that it had made some exemptions to this policy but only at the specific instructions of the courts.
The applicants claimed that similar exemption should be made for them too but the apex court rejected their plea.