January,6,2015: After following the odd-even vehicle rule like most Delhiites by resorting to car pooling with his brother judge A K Sikri, Chief Justice of India T S Thakur on Tuesday told the Arvind Kejriwal government not to test the patience of citizens by not providing them adequate public transport.
“Delhiites have cooperated with the Government’s odd-even vehicle rule. But look at the way they have travelled in jam-packed buses and Metro. You need to augment public transport, otherwise the enthusiasm with which the Delhiites followed the rule would soon evaporate. Don’t test their patience,” said the Supreme Court bench of Justices Thakur, A K Sikri and R Banumathi.
Amicus curiae Harish Salve and advocate Aparajita Singh pointed out that the apex court in July 1998 had ordered the Delhi government to augment the public transport system by putting into operation at least 10,000 buses by 2001, but it currently has just 5,000. “Buses are jam-packed in peak hours. The citizens must get to travel comfortably while going to work or returning home.” Salve also said while in most countries, Metro trains run at a frequency of one-and-a-half minutes, the frequency in Delhi is 3-4 minutes. “The frequency must increase,” he said.
The court asked the Delhi government and DMRC to inform why necessary steps were not taken to make travel by daily commuters a relaxed affair rather than a struggle.
“A person leaves behind the comfort of his car and decides to follow rules by travelling in Metro or a bus. With the overcrowding in public transport, would it be fair to ask him to keep his car at home? Why can’t the Metro put one or two coaches more and charge five to six times of the normal fare for those who want to travel comfortably, at least getting a seat to sit,” the bench asked.
When the SC told the Kejriwal government that it had not done enough on the public transport front, its counsel Rahul Mehra informed the court that it was prepared to purchase more buses but faced a serious problem in parking them in the night.
Mehra said at present there were 5,500 buses in the city fleet of which 1,500 were cluster buses. To park 100 buses, an area of five acre was required… the government would need 500 acre to park 10,000 buses.
“The Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which is under the control of the central government, has agreed to allot 75 acres of land and has in fact given part possession of it. The remaining 45 acre is yet to be given,” Mehra said.
The SC asked solicitor general Ranjit Kumar to inquire with the concerned authorities about the “delay” in allotment of land to the Delhi government for parking the buses. “The SG shall also take instructions from DMRC for plans on augmenting the rolling stock to reduce the frequency of trains keeping in view the heavy rush because of the odd-even rule imposed by the Delhi government,” it said.