A day before Delhi Assembly elections, the Aam Aadmi Party government got a jolt from the Delhi High Court which stayed the operation of its decision of June last year to increase auto-rickshaw fares.
The court was hearing a petition filed by NGO, Aiding Hands Foundation, seeking that the notification revising the auto fares be set aside as it was issued without the approval of the competent authority, that is the Lieutenant Governor, and the hike would severely impact the people.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said, "We hereby stay the operation of the June 12 notification issued by the Delhi government till the next date of hearing, that is, May 21."
The bench said it was of the prima facie opinion that the petitioner has a case in and the Transport Department of the Delhi government could not issue the notification as the LG was the competent authority.
"We are not concerned about the dispute between you two (Delhi government and LG). But if you cannot do anything, it means you cannot do."
Advocate D P Singh, appearing for the NGO, argued that the Delhi government does not have the power to issue such a notification and it deserved to be set aside being bad in law.
Central government standing counsel Jasmeet Singh also supported the petition and said the notification cannot be issued by the Delhi government and it has to be set aside.
Delhi government's counsel Shadan Farasat, however, opposed the plea saying auto fares fall under the Transport Department and so it has the power to issue the notification to revise the rates.
The court on July 8 last year had issued notice to the Centre, the Delhi government, its transport department and fare revision commission on the PIL.
The petition challenged the notification saying authorities arbitrarily revised the auto fares in Delhi, adversely impacting the residents who are otherwise victimised by the unruly behaviour of auto drivers and charging of exorbitant amount.
The plea, filed through advocates Anurag Tandon and Ashwin Manoharan, has claimed that the notification was issued without any authority in law and in flagrant violation of the constitutional provisions.
It said the auto drivers seldom agree to go by the meters and charge exorbitantly and the fare revision only authorises them to charge a higher price than usual.
"An increase in the auto fares may also lead to an increase in the price of certain basic commodities since autos are regularly used for ferrying goods within the city," it added.