The fight over the ideal fare for the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar metro line, as predicted by DNA in a front page article on May 9, has got knotty and will now be played out in the Bombay High Court.
In a packed press conference at Ghatkopar metro station on Sunday morning during commissioning ceremony of the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar (VAG) metro, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said that Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) had filed a petition against Mumbai Metro One Private Limited over the issue of fares. He said that the change of rules governing the project — from the Tramways Act under which the project implementation was notified to the Metro Railway (Operations and Maintenance) Act 2002 — was causing problems.
As reported earlier, the state government wanted a fare slab of Rs 9,11 and 13 for the metro while MMOPL went ahead with a fare structure of Rs 10,20,30 and 40 for the route, in the process incensing the state government. However on Sunday morning, amid the commissioning of the line for the public, Reliance Infra-led MMOPL officials told this paper that the firm was on very sound legal grounds as far as the fare structure is concerned.
While CM Chavan spoke of how the Fare Fixation Committee (FFC) should have set the fare, MMOPL officials spoke of how for the past two years, the demand for setting up a FFC by MMOPL was not adhered to. Secondly, MMOPL officials pointed out, Sections 33 and 34 of the Metro Railway Act (Operations and Maintenance) Act, 2002, gives the metro railway administrator — in this case MMOPL — the right to fix the first fares without outside interference. The Act says that the fare revision after this initial fixing of fares would be governed by the FCC, comprising two senior bureaucrats and chaired by a sitting or retired High Court judge. These recommendations would be mandatory.
"There is a letter dated February 7, 2014, written by the Union Ministry of Urban Development to the Maharashtra Urban development department, which clearly mentions that for the initial fare fixation, no FCC recommendation is necessary. This letter also says that from November 18, 2013 the Tramways Act, under which the project implementation was notified, stands superseded. So what is the state government talking about, now that the provisions of the original concession — under the Tramways Act — have to be adhered to in total," said an official.
So precise had been their legal homework, these officials pointed out, that even the media release on the promotional fare of Rs10 for the first 30 days was whetted by legal experts. It clearly stated that the promotional fare of Rs10 was completely different from the notified fare slab of Rs10,20,30 and 40. MMOPL would have been a spot of bother if the state government would have emphasized on this Rs10 promotional fare as the first fare that can be fixed by MMOPL, as per the Metro act. That would have meant that from here on, the new fare — a revision — would have been done by the FFC. "Since the fare slabs of Rs10, 20, 30 and 40 were put up on our website before we announced this promotional fare and we have clearly mentioned the promotional fare is different from our notified fare slab, we are fine here," smiled an official.