With no fixed slab of rates, the autorikshaw drivers charge high fares, which often lead to arguments with customers

The First Bench of the Madras High Court on Monday directed the State government to spell out steps it planned to take for regulating autorickshaw fares.

When a public interest litigation petition seeking a direction to fix a minimum autorickshaw fare slab came up for hearing, Chief Justice M. Yusuf Eqbal and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam asked the Government Pleader to get instructions and reply in three weeks.

The petition filed by Chennai-based advocate P. Immanuel Prakasam also wanted the government to direct autorickshaw drivers, through subordinate officials, to fix fare meters approved and sealed by the competent authority.

Mr. Immanuel Prakasam said the government should direct autorickshaw drivers to collect the fare on the basis of meter reading.

He said though one lakh autorickshaws were plying in the State, most of them did not have a meter.

Even if there was a meter, the driver would not collect fare on the basis of the reading. He alleged that autorickshaw drivers were collecting a minimum of Rs.50 for one km because the government so far had not fixed any slab pertaining to the minimum fare for the first two km and every additional km thereafter.

“Sometimes they collect exorbitant amounts. This leads to unwanted quarrels with passengers, causing mental harassment, hardship and agony. The government may not remain a silent spectator,” he said.

Alleging that traffic police personnel were not registering cases against drivers, though they were aware that the drivers had not fixed meters and were not collecting fare based on the meter reading, he said this was illegal and could not be sustained in the eye of law.

Mr. Prakasam said the public at large would be benefited if the State government, through enforcement authorities, ensured that drivers fixed fare meters and collected fares only on the basis of meter reading. He recalled his representation to the Secretary and Commissioner of the Transport department in this regard.

“But my grievances in the representation have evoked no response,” he lamented.