High Court driving state govt to make a choice
THE Bombay High Court, taking serious note of the Goa government’s failure to keep their promise to have digital meters installed on all tourist taxis by August 1, 2019, has issued a notice to them asking why they should not be proceeded against for contempt of court. A division bench comprising Justices M S Sonak and Nutan Sardesai said the court had given clear directions to the government to implement Automated Tracking Device with integrated emergency system and fare meter in taxis. The court is hearing a petition filed by the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) seeking directions to the government to install digital meters on taxis. The state government deserves to be pulled up by the court as it had given a categorical commitment to the bench that they would make installation of digital meters mandatory from August 1 onwards for getting new licence or renewal of licence for a tourist taxi. The government promised that the installation of digital meters would be completed in six months starting from August 1, and on a pilot basis the installation of digital meters in tourist taxis would be done from July 16 to July 31.
The Advocate General had told the bench that the state transport authority had approved the minutes referred to in the order of June 21, 2019, which laid down the procedure for the implementation of Automated Tracking Device with an integrated emergency system and fare meter in passenger taxis. He said the decision taken by the state transport authority, which formed part of these minutes, outlined the manner in which the implementation would be carried out first on a pilot basis and later, after finalising the modalities, by installing devices in all taxis. The state government has never been short of enthusiasm in making promises on installation of meters. Much before they gave the assurance to the court, the then transport minister Ramkrishna Dhavalikar announced that “all taxis in Goa will be installed with digital meters from March 2019. Taxis would also be fitted with speed governors, high security number plates and GPS.”
Nothing moved. The reason behind the state government not keeping its promise to the High Court to install digital meters is more political than administrative. The 25,000-odd taxis are controlled by associations that have strong political patronage. They have been foiling every bid of the government to regulate their services. It would be interesting to see how the state government responds to the High Court directions to file an affidavit to prevent themselves for being held guilty of contempt of court. It is worth noting that as far back as in June 2015 the transport department had issued a notification making it mandatory for the 25,000-odd tourist taxis in Goa to install GPS-enabled digital meters. In order to lure taxi operators, the government even promised to give 50 per cent subsidy or Rs 5,000 on the purchase of a digital meter. However, the government beat a retreat after taxi operators started an agitation.
Three years later, the transport department announced that it had ordered tests of the digital meters it would get installed on the taxis. Towards the end of 2018, the department invited bids for installation of digital meters after the High Court pulled it for delay. The government told the court that it had to scrap the earlier process due to changes in the standards and specifications for Automotive Tracking Device, and the department’s officers needed time to understand the changes in order to be able to implement them. Thereafter the department finally selected two lowest bidders for installation of GPS-based meters. The department explained that it selected two agencies to make sure taxi operators did not face any problems in procurement and installation of digital meters. In the first six months, one agency would have the rights to implement the project. The other agency would join thereafter, the department said. The department also said it had asked Goa Electronics Limited to complete the empanelment of the two bidders, enter into agreement with them and issue them work orders. Actually, the Goa Motor Vehicles Rules, 1991 makes it mandatory for every taxi to have a digital meter, a printer and a GPS tracking device.