The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in the Nilgiris has ordered the General Manager of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC), Coimbatore, and the Regional Transport Officer, Udhagamandalam to calculate the amount of excess fares collected from the public on board ‘Express’ buses and deposit it to the Nilgiris district administration.
The order follows a complaint from a Coonoor-based consumer rights activist who alleged that the TNSTC was collecting ‘excess’ fares from the public who board ‘Express’ government buses, though the TNSTC had not granted any buses in the district to be operated as such.
S. Manoharan, president of the Coonoor Consumer Protection Association, had approached the commission alleging that in August 2019, he had boarded a bus from Kil Kundah to Manjoor with his friend, when the bus conductor charged the two of them ₹11 per ticket. When questioned, he was told that as the bus was being operated to Coimbatore as an ‘Express’ service, the fare was higher than the normal amount of ₹7 per ticket, which is charged on ordinary government buses.
“The Tamil Nadu government had revised the bus fare on January 19, 2018… in the government order No. 34 and 48 dated January 28, 2018, the minimum fare for six kilometers is prescribed as ₹7 per kilometer. Furthermore, as I had sought information under the Right to Information Act as to the number of buses that had been granted approval to be run as ‘Express’ services, the TNSTC General Manager had stated that no permission had been granted to any of the 349 government buses to operate as ‘Express’ buses,” said Mr. Manogaran.
The order, issued by the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission noted that the bus that Mr. Manoharan traveled on was an ordinary bus, and that operating it as an ‘Express’ service was “an illegal act and an act of cheating the petitioner who is a consumer.” The order also noted that it was tantamount to “unfair trade practice” and against the Consumer Protection act.
The President of the commission, D. Chitra, directed the TNSTC to refund ₹8 to Mr. Manoharan (the excess fare charged for two tickets by the bus conductor), and ordered the TNSTC General Manager and Regional Transport Officer to pay ₹50,000 each as “compensation towards the mental agony” caused to Mr. Manoharan, as well as ₹5,000 as cost of the complaint. The TNSTC was also asked to deposit the difference in amount of excess fare collected from all passengers from January 19, 2018 to the district administration for conducting consumer awareness programmes in the Nilgiris.