In a set back to the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA), the Bombay High Court on Tuesday dismissed its petition challenging the fares fixed by the Mumbai Metro One Private Ltd (MMOPL) —a joint venture between Reliance Infrastructure and MMRDA, for the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar metro rail. Justice RD Dhanuka dismissed the petition filed by MMRDA observing that the MMOPL, and not the state government, had the right to decide on the initial fares till the time the Fares Fixation Committee (FFC) decides on the fares. “The petition is without merits and hence is dismissed,” observed Justice Dhanuka.
While refusing to stay the metro fares, Justice Dhanuka observed: “Perusal of the agreement (between the parties), indicates that the MMOPL is empowered to fix the fares till decided by the FFC. Prima facie, the fares at the time of opening is to be fixed by respondent 3 (MMOPL) and not by the state government.” The HC has directed the Union government to ask the FFC to expeditiously decide on the fares of the metro rail as per the Metro Act.
The MMRDA had moved the HC on June 9 in an arbitration petition challenging the fares devised by its project partner RInfra saying that the consortium had agreed on the structure under which fares were to be Rs 9 (upto 3 kms), Rs 11 (from 3 to 8 kms) and Rs 13 (for more than 8 kms). Upholding the arguments of counsels for RInfra and MMOPL, the HC said that fares are not to be fixed by an agreement but are to be decided by the FFC. Justice Dhanuka also observed that the company was bound to start the metro rails service to recover its costs.
Without going into the merits of fixing of fares, the HC has asked the parties to decide on an arbitrator who will decide on the legality of the resolution passed by the MMOPL on May 29 fixing fares. “As far as reasonableness of the fares is considered, this court (HC) cannot go into it. The issue will be adjudicated by the arbitrator,” said the HC.
Taking into consideration the allegations of the MMRDA, that the fares decided by the MMOPL are on the higher side, the HC said that the FFC will consider the revenue earned at the time of fixing of fares. “The FFC can consider the fares recovered, the promotional fares and also the free rides (while fixing of the fares),” observed the HC.