Telangana HC stays cabinet decision to privatise public transport; RTC strike enters 35th day
Telangana High Court on Friday stayed the decision of the state cabinet to privatise 50% of the public transport by giving permits to private transport operators to run as many as 5100 buses.
A division bench of the high court comprising chief justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and justice A Abhishek Reddy gave the orders while hearing a petition filed by Telangana Democratic Forum convenor PL Vishweshwar Rao.
The bench posted the matter to November 11 for further hearing and directed that the state government submit the decisions made by the state cabinet on the RTC.
The Telangana cabinet, headed by chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, had on November 2 decided that as many as 5,100 routes out of 10,400 routes on which the state-run road transport corporation (RTC) had been operating would be privatised.
The chief minister had also announced that the remaining routes would also be privatised if the 48,000-odd employees who had been on strike since October 5 did not return to their duties before the deadline of November 5 midnight.
He instructed officials of the transport department to issue a notification inviting applications from private parties to obtain transport permits.
However, except a few, the majority of the employees refused to join the duty and continue their agitation, which entered 35th day on Friday. The employees are planning a massive rally, “Million March”, on Tank Bund on the banks of Hussain Sagar lake in Hyderabad on Saturday.
Petitioner Vishweshwar Rao challenged the KCR government’s decision to privatise RTC and requested that the court declare the decision as illegal.
“The move to privatise public transport was unconstitutional, unreasonable, arbitrary and also mockery of Constitution of India, Road Transport Corporation Act 1950 and Motor Vehicles Act 1988,” he said.
Advocate general BS Prasad Rao appearing on behalf of the government pointed out that the cabinet decisions could not be disclosed and could not be challenged.
However, the division bench said the cabinet decisions could not be held secret and they must be on the public domain.
“We don’t like to precipitate the matter. The cabinet decision on privatising 50% of the routes is stayed till further orders,” the court said.
Joint Action Committee of Telangana RTC employees’ unions welcomed the high court’s decision to stay RTC’s privatisation.
“It is the first victory for the employees. We request the government to solve our demands at least now. We shall continue our struggle till we get justice,” JAC chairperson E Ashwathama Reddy said.
He said the police had refused to give permission for the “Million March” on Tank Bund on Saturday and were arresting senior leaders.
“But we are determined to hold the rally and make it a success,” Ashwathama Reddy said.