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Sunday, 18 July 2021

MP HC on ban on Inter-State Bus Transportation: When there is loss of life or human suffering, Centre & State Govt. empowered to put restrictions

 DTC Buses 

A Single Judge Bench of Indore Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising of Justice Vivek Rusia has in a judgment titled MP-Bus Operator Association v. the State of MP & others held that in the extraordinary situation of a pandemic or disaster involving loss of life and human suffering, the Central Government, as well as the State Government, are empowered to put any restriction in the larger public interest under the Disaster Management Act, including restriction of movement of the public by inter-state bus transportation.

Factual Background

The Court was dealing with a petition filed by MP-Bus Operator Association challenging various Government orders restricting inter-State bus transportation between the State of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra owing to the rising number of Covid 19 cases. It was the case of the petitioner association that despite having a valid permit to ply inter-state buses, the government had restricted them in wake of the second Covid wave.

Reasoning and Decision of the Court

The Court observed that,

 It is not in dispute that the second wave of Covid -19 started from the State of Maharashtra and being a neighboring State there is a frequent movement of the public between M.P and Maharashtra by all means of transport. Accordingly to the petitioner, there is no restriction on transportation by railways and airways. The railways and airways are under the domain of the Central Government and on which the State Government cannot put any restriction. The transportation by stage carriages is under the control of the State Government, therefore, the State Govt. is competent to put restriction or conditions in which there is no discrimination by the State Government.”

“Even otherwise, in transportation through airways and railways the entry and exit points of passengers are fixed and known from where the passengers can be checked about their health conditions but it is not possible in the transportation by buses. The buses can be stopped anywhere and collect the passengers which is not possible in the railways and airways, therefore, both are different classes of transportation. The State Government has put restriction only for the limited period subject to the reduction of cases of Covid. There is no permanent restriction for transportation through buses from Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra and vice versa. The Government is reviewing the situation after the interval of 10-15 days and extending the restriction for limited period. Except Maharashtra the petitioners are permitted to ply the buses in other part of the country, therefore, there is no 100% restriction on the right of trade and business. In the larger public interest, the individual interest is bound to suffer.”

Further, the Court made observations on the power of the State under the Disaster Management Act of 2005, 

 

“So far as the applicability of section 24 of the Act of 2005 is concerned, the government has decided to enact a law on disaster management to provide for requisite institutional mechanisms for drawing up and monitoring the implementation of the disaster management plans, ensuring measures by various wings of Government for prevention and mitigating effects of disasters and for undertaking a holistic, coordinated and prompt response to any disaster situation. Section 2(d) defines the word ‘disaster’ and 2(e) defines ‘disaster management which means a continuous and integrated process of planning, organizing, coordinating, and implementing measures that are necessary or expedient for the prevention of danger or threat of any disaster or mitigation or reduction of risk of any disaster.

Section 14 authorizes the State Govt. to establish State Disaster Management Authority for the State by way of notification. Section 24(l) gives power to the Central Govt. or the State Govt. to take such steps as are required or warranted by the form of any threatening disaster situation or disaster, therefore, in the exercise of the aforesaid powers the State Govt. has decided to restrict or minimize the movement from Maharashtra to Madhya Pradesh.

In a normal situation, the action of the State Government can be examined in respect of putting restrictions on any trade and business but in the case of disaster or pandemic where the loss of life or human suffering or damages are in large scale then the Central Government or the State Government is empowered to put any restriction in the larger public interest in the exercise of power under section 24 of the Act of 2005. Section 72 gives overriding effect to the provisions of the Act of 2005 over the other Act. The High Court in exercise of powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India should not interfere in the policy decisions taken by the State Government looking to the interest of public at large.”

 

Quite rationally, the Bench then held in para 10 that,

“It is expected from the State Government that further extension or restriction of movement of the public by inter-State transportation by buses shall not be in a mechanical manner but after assessing the facts and figures of Covid -19 cases in the State of Maharashtra.”    

Case Details

 

Case Name: MP-Bus Operator Association v. State of MP & Others

Case No.: Writ Petition No. 8597 of 2021

Bench: Justice Vivek Rusia 


Date of Decision: June 29, 2021

Read Order 


 

 

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