Govt order on 37 suspended Pune RTO officials is contempt of court, says petitioner
The State transport department, in September, 2018, had suspended 28 motor vehicle inspectors and nine assistant inspectors posted at various RTOs across Maharashtra for negligence in issuing fitness certificates to vehiclesUpdated: Feb 09, 2019 14:25 IST
The Maharashtra government’s order directing 37 suspended motor vehicle inspectors to resume duty with immediate effect amounts to ‘contempt of court’, the Pune resident whose public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court in August, 2018 had led to their suspension, said.
The State transport department, in September, 2018, had suspended 28 motor vehicle inspectors and nine assistant inspectors posted at various RTOs across Maharashtra for negligence in issuing fitness certificates to vehicles.
This was after the Bombay High Court directed their suspension in August, 2018, in response to a petition filed by Pune resident Shashikant Karve, in November, 2012.
On Wednesday, the Maharashtra government ordered reinstatement of the 37 suspended RTO officials with immediate effect on account of acute shortage of staff.
Of these 37 RTO officials, 13 inspectors are from the Pune Regional transport office (RTO) who resumed duty on Friday, said Babasaheb Ajri, regional transport officer of the Pune division. Ajri said the departmental inquiry on these 13 officers will continue as before.
“The departmental inquiry which was being conducted on the suspended officers is yet to be completed. However, in view of the state government directives, we had to take them on duty immediately,” he said.
Shashikant Karve, a Pune resident who had filed the PIL in Bombay High court in November, 2012 against the RTO officials for not doing their statutory work said, “The state government’s decision is a contempt of court. The court must take actions against the state government for passing such an order despite Bombay high court’s specific instructions on suspension of RTO officials.”
He termed the government action as “cheating of common public” as it had refused to obey the court order.
Fitness certificates are issued to vehicles that are deemed fit to ply on roads without causing any sort of public hazard. This involves testing different parts of the vehicle, including the brakes.
Commercial vehicles such as buses, trucks, tempos, taxis, and auto rickshaws need to renew their fitness certificates every year whereas non-commercial vehicles such as cars and bikes need to do so every 15 years.
In August 2018, the transport department was slammed by the Bombay high court which initiated contempt proceedings against its secretary in response to the PIL filed by Karve.
The PIL exposed several irregularities in the way an RTO handed out fitness certificates without conducting tests. The court also ordered the transport department to mandatorily carry out brake tests for vehicles as well as installing CCTV cameras at test tracks.
The suspended RTO officers were working at Pune, Yavatmal, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Panvel, and Thane.
Karve had worked in the transport business for three decades till 1995 and then joined a private firm. He filed the PIL in the Bombay High court on November 2012 stating that RTO officials were issuing vehicle fitness certificates without conducting proper checks and without conducting the mandatory brake tests of the vehicles.
According to Karve, the court in its order had specifically stated that gross negligence had been committed by the RTO officials in terms of safety and this could prove fatal.
Govt order contradicts national road safety campaign?
The Maharashtra government’s order to reinstate 37 RTO officials who are under suspension for alleged negligence while passing ‘fitness certificates’ of vehicles is in sharp contrast to Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari’s road safety campaign.
Gadkari has often highlighted the rising number of accidents in the country due to the neglect of safety measures. With more than one lakh people dying in road accidents in the country every year, Gadkari has often described the lack of safety on the roads as a major failure of his ministry.
Under such circumstances, the government’s move to reinstate the suspended RTO officials appears to contradict the road safety initiatives.
First Published: Feb 09, 2019 14:22 IST