It just became easier for you to pursue your complaint with the transport office if you get harassed by an auto or taxi driver. Information like the vehicles’ permit and registration numbers, and the billa (badge) numbers of drivers, will soon be available online, making it easy for citizens to take up a case with the Regional Transport Office (RTO).
In a landmark order, the state chief information commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad has asked the transport commissioner to ensure that the registration numbers of all public transport vehicles registered in Maharashtra along with their permit numbers and billa numbers (given to auto and taxis drivers) are posted on the RTO’s website by February 28.
The order was given on Thursday, in response to a complaint filed by Thane-based activist Anil Mahadik.
In its edition dated January 17, dna had reported how the Thane RTO had asked Mahadik to pay Rs55 lakh for seeking information on the number of autos and their registration numbers, along with the names and addresses of all auto owners, under the Thane RTO’s jurisdiction.
The public information officer told Mahadik that as per the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1981, he would have to shell out Rs50 for information on each vehicle. As there are 76,996 autos registered in Thane and 36,887 permits issued in Thane, this takes the total to Rs55 lakh.
Mahadik had challenged this at the information commission. During the hearing, it was brought to the notice of the commission that many autos and taxis are plying without permits or licences that were stopped after 1997.
“However, there are many who ply despite improper paper work. One doesn’t know if an auto or taxis is even registered at times. States like Karnataka have made it mandatory for all autos to put up this information behind the driver’s seat. Since that is not the case here, transport authorities should be directed to upload the information on their website, as per the provisions of RTI Act,” said Bhaskar Prabhu, of Mahiti Adhikar Manch, an organisation that works towards creating awareness on the RTI Act.
Pulling up the authority, the information commissioner said, “I got a shock when I heard Rs55 lakh was being demanded by the Thane RTO. The amount is exorbitant and the reply is irresponsible. It shows lack of understanding of rules by the officials.”
The commission has directed the RTO to put up all the information on the website as per sections 4 (1) (b) (13) and (14) of the RTI Act, which make it mandatory for a public authority to declare such information on a suo motu basis.
It also directed the state transport commissioner to ensure that all transport bodies put up information of registration and permits of autos, taxis, private buses and service utility buses on their website by February 28.