: A public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Madras High Court against owners of shops in the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT) at Koyambedu here for charging a price for items higher than the maximum retail price (MRP.) The petitioner has also highlighted the hardship undergone by the public due to encroachments by shopkeepers on bus platforms.

The First Bench comprising the Acting Chief Justice R.K.Agrawal and Justice N.Paul Vasanthakumar has ordered notice of admission to the authorities returnable by six weeks.

In the petition, M.Manikandhan of Ice House here, an advocate, alleged that shop-keepers manhandled customers who questioned them for selling eatery items at a higher price. The shops did not issue receipts for the branded and packed products. They refused to sell to those who insisted on a receipt. Thus, the public had no other alternative but to pay the arbitrary price fixed by shopkeepers. Mr.Manikandhan said he sent a complaint to the CMDA in September last year. Except for a formal reply, no effective action was taken by the authorities.

The hardship for public did not end there. During the journey, the crew of long distance buses, operated by the State Express Transport Corporation and other State transport corporations stopped the vehicles at hotels which were located at remote places on the highway. The hotels charged extra for the eatables and other products. For instance, a one-litre bottle of mineral water was being sold for Rs.20 when the MRP printed was only Rs.15. The owners gave freebies to bus conductors and drivers in return for the gesture of halting the vehicles at the hotels. Further, these hotels sold unhygienic food. The sanitary condition was poor. This was the situation all over the State.

The government was responsible for safeguarding the rights of consumers and regulating the price and quality of food products. The petitioner prayed the court for a direction to the authorities to remove the encroachments by shop keepers at CMBT and to direct the shop keepers not sell products above the MRP and also issue receipts. The SETC should be directed to instruct bus crew to halt only at hotels which maintained sanitation.