Agartala, Jul 31: The Tripura High Court has rejected state government's petition seeking one year relief for banning the movement of motor driven rickshaws converted from paddle rickshaws and asked the government to comply with the court order immediately.Hearing the petition of the state government seeking extension of time for executing the court order, the divisional bench comprising of Chief Justice Sanjoy Karol and Justice Arindam Lodh observed that mechanically, convertedrickshaws are not safe for the passengers but they have been moving on the street.
While accepting the argument of the state government regarding livelihood of hundreds of rickshaw pullers, the bench asked the government to formulate an action plan for their livelihood protection but not allow them on the roads flouting public safety. The conversion of paddle rickshaws was done illegally in front of the administration and despite repeated requests from the civil society, the state government did not act.
Finally, based on a Public Interest Litigation filed by a Lawyer in February this year, High Court of Tripura banned converted motor-driven paddle rickshaws immediately, but the state government did not comply with the direction even by May this year. Instead, a traffic sub-inspector was suspended when he removed motor from a rickshaw complying the direction of the court.Two months ago, a division bench of the High Court of Tripura had re-directed Agartala Municipal Commissioner to immediately execute the ban order after hearing the contempt petition.
The court had observed that the converted manual rickshaws were the most risky mode of transportation. The manually regulated rickshaws run on high speed after conversion that resulted in a large number of accidents and even a death of a child last year.Since, there is no safety mechanism in the converted-rickshaws, the passengers have no protection. Accepting the risk of public life, the state government argued that about 10,000 such paddle rickshaws had been converted into motor-driven rickshaws and now the state government faced the challenge of the livelihood issues of those families.
The court turned down the argument and said protection of life of innocent people is more important than the livelihood of those rickshaw pullers who had illegally converted the paddle rickshaw. The court had directed district magistrate West Tripura, SP West Tripura and SP Traffic besides, municipal commissioner to swing into action for executing the order immediately. Otherwise, they will be held personally responsible for non-compliance of the direction.
The court also found Tripura Battery Operated rickshaws Rule 2014 and 2019 was repugnant to M V Act 1988 and canceled it accordingly. Meantime, the state government filed an affidavit seeking at least one year time to execute the court order after making alternative livelihood options of the rickshaw puller but the court did not agree with.
However, Transport minister Pranajit Singha Roy stated that the entire problem was created by Manik Sarkar led Left Front government to secure the vote bank and now this has become a burden for BJP-IPFT government and added, “The rickshaw conversion is not only one issue, they have allowed series of illegal activities which is the cause of public disorder today. But we are undone, have to follow the direction of court and go by law.”
He further stated that Transport department officials and other law enforcing agencies will launch a drive against illegal e-rickshaws from tomorrow as the deadline for registration ended today and decline the demand for extension of deadline. The government will not allow any e-rickshaw to ply in the road, those do not have registration and insurance, he added.
Tripura is having over 12,500 e-rickshaws across the state and most of them are not procured from certified companies. Non-standard e-rickshaws made by Chinese companies flooded the market via Bangladesh, which has become a major problem of traffic congestion in the main streets. The state government has decided to allow only the registered e-rickshaws in designated roads only.UNI