Unruly Delhi Metro commuters could face jail, heavy fines
Riding in an intoxicated state, creating a scene or using abusive language inside the premises of a Metro network could lead to a Rs 5,000 fine, according to sweeping changes proposed in the law to govern mass rapid-transit systems in India.
The Union housing and urban development ministry has sent the draft Metro Rail (Construction, Operation and Maintenance) Bill, 2017 to the law ministry for vetting, and it contains clauses that will overhaul not only rules and regulations for passengers but the way Metro projects are built and fares revised.
The bill also proposes stiff fines for staffers, who could be fined Rs 10,000 for general offences and Rs 30,000 and jail term of up to two years if their actions endangers passengers.
It has suggested a permanent authority be set up to revise metro fares whenever required, an issue that was at the centre of the controversy sparked by a steep increase in Delhi Metro fares that for long went without a hike.
“Metro is a distinct system from the rail system and with networks expanding, a host of issues related to safety, operations and maintenance have come up, which were not addressed in the current law,” said M Ramachandran, former urban development secretary, who welcomed the proposed bill.
Once cleared by the law ministry, the bill will go to the cabinet for approval before being tabled in Parliament. The current law, which covers 8 metro projects across India, came up in 2002 and was amended in 2009.
The hefty new fines being proposed (see box) range from Rs 1,000 for littering to a maximum of Rs 50,000 and four-year jail term for taking ‘dangerous material’ such as guns inside the metro. The harshest punishment proposed is for “any act of sabotage with the intent to cause death”. This can be punished by a death sentence or a life term, according to the bill.
The bill empowers the Centre to appoint commissioners of metro rail safety to inspect new projects and determine if they are fit to be opened. Currently, the Commission of Railway Safety falls under the civil aviation ministry
and safety inspections are often delayed due to red tape,
pushing back opening of new stretches.
The draft bill also empowers state governments to invoke the “urgency clause” in the 2013 land acquisition law to acquire space for metro projects. The urgency clause is reserved for matters that are normally seen as more pressing, such as defence and for emergency response.
Land acquisition issues are often blamed for delays in metro projects and states could invoke the “urgency” clause prior to 2013. The land acquisition law passed in 2013 did not include metro projects as a matter of urgency.