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1.8 million public transport vehicles owe ₹3,576 cr for not renewing fitness

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Mumbai: Nearly 1.8 million public transport vehicles which are plying in Maharashtra without fitness certificates owe 3,576 crore to the transport department towards penalty for not renewing their fitness certificates since 2017. Unions representing public transport operators want the penalty to be waived, but the transport department is opposed to the move as it would set a wrong precedent. The issue, however, is unlikely to be resolved before the assembly elections, said officials.

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Rules mandate that public transport vehicles such as buses, taxis, autos and good carriers must pass a fitness test and obtain a certificate every year or two years until they complete 16 years on road. In 2016, the union transport ministry imposed a fine of 50 per day on vehicles not having fitness certificates, which was challenged by public transport operators’ unions in Bombay high court. In April 2017, after the court imposed a stay on the decision, owners of public transport vehicles began skipping fitness tests as the transport department insisted on clearing pending fines first.

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The high court vacated the stay in April 2024, paving way for recovery of fines worth 3,576 crore from 1.798 million vehicles, with the fine being 1 lakh for some autos and taxis.

“These public transport vehicles have not obtained fitness certificates since a stay was imposed in 2017 on the order hiking the penalty amount. As per rule, they have been fined 50 per day, with the total pending fine running into thousands. Until vehicle owners pay this amount, no fitness certificates will be issued to them,” said an official from the transport department.

Thampy Kurian, general secretary of Mumbai Rickshawmen Union said it was unfair and unreasonable for the transport department to levy fines for the entire period since 2017. “Some of auto and taxi owners have accumulated fines worth 1 lakh or more when the current cost of their vehicles is just a few thousand rupees. So we have been demanding that the fine be levied from April 2024, when the stay was vacated,” said Kurian.

The absence of fitness certificates makes it difficult to settle claims during accidents, he noted. Retired RTO officer Sanjay Sasane concurred, saying, “If a vehicle has an invalid fitness certificate, it is treated as an unregistered vehicle. If such a vehicle is involved in an accident, it will be considered a serious offence.”

Chief minister Eknath Shinde, who also holds transport portfolio, insisted on a penalty waiver for taxis and autos at a recent meeting, said sources in the transport department. But the department opposed the move, saying it would set a wrong precedent and cause heavy loss of revenue. The department also suggested that the recovery of pending fines be suspended till the assembly elections are over later this year.

“Why only public transport vehicles, thousands of private cars in the state are also running without fitness certificates and the pending amount in penalties is over 1,500 crore,” said another transport department official.

“The government must create a mechanism wherein if owners do not renew fitness certificates within the stipulated period, the vehicle would get deregistered automatically and even the vehicle insurance would be cancelled,” said a transport expert.

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Read More: 1.8 million public transport vehicles owe ₹3,576 cr for not renewing fitness

2024-07-11 00:54:15

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