After a battle with the Department of Motor Vehicles, Robin bus service is resuming. But the Private Bus Operators Forum alleges that the action of the bus authorities will push the private bus sector into a big crisis. Common people rely on private buses to travel at the lowest fares. It is alleged that if buses with All India Tourist Permits start plying as stage carriages, it will pose a big challenge to private buses. All Kerala Bus Operators Organization General Secretary T Gopinath said that they are requesting the government to bring clarity in this regard.
Unclear amendment of law
The government’s position is that tourist buses with All India permits should not run stage carriage services. That is why KSRTC approached the High Court. The main allegation is that the Robin Bus service is being operated by misinterpreting the recent amendments to the All India Tourist Act at the pan-India level. There are some loopholes in the Motor Vehicle Act while granting the All India Tourist Permit. But a section argues that while tourist buses with permits can operate contract carriages, stage carriages are not permitted. This is where more clarity is needed.
The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation itself has approached the High Court against operating the Robin bus service as a stage carriage using an All India Tourist Vehicle Permit. The Tamil Nadu Transport Department seized the bus three days ago citing permit violations. Baby Girish, who has the power of attorney for the bus, released the bus after paying the fine. Girish has stated that the bus service will resume on the Pathanamthitta-Coimbatore route. Girish says that considering the demand of Sabarimala pilgrims, it is planned to run the service to Pampa as well. KSRTC strongly opposes this.
But it is also worth noting that there are some relaxations in the law for All India Permit holders even though they are contract carriage. Sections 82 to 85 of the Motor Vehicles Act are not applicable to All India permit holders as per notification dated 18th April 2023. This is why the court has given permission to Robin Bus to operate the service with conditions. But there needs to be more clarity in the law amendment and government policy that has caused so many concerns in the field of public transport.