HC Slams Admin for Ignoring Tourist Taxi Overcharging


SRINAGAR: The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh recently criticised the Union Territory administration for failing to curb exorbitant fares charged from tourists by taxi operators.

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Justice Sanjeev Kumar said it was unthinkable that the taxi operators registered with the Department of Tourism in the Kashmir valley could still charge exorbitant rates and fleece tourists.

“This Court is at pains to observe that the respondents have failed to regulate the fair charging of rates by the taxi operators. It is unthinkable in this era of digital world that the taxi operators who are registered with the Department of Tourism, can still charge exorbitant rates and fleece the tourists,” the Court said.

It added that the tourism authorities must rise to the occasion and put in place measures like making a provision for prepaid taxis, so that no tourist operator would dare to charge a rate higher than what is fixed by the Department of Tourism.

The authorities shall also be well within their right to cancel the registration of taxi operators found to have charged a rate higher than the one fixed by the competent authority, the Court said further.

“This, however, may be done by the competent authority after providing an opportunity of being heard to the said operators,” it added.

The Court was hearing a petition moved by the tourist taxi stands of Pahalgam against the Director Tourism, Kashmir’s decision to allow additional taxis from other recognized stands of the valley to operate in the area, which is a major tourist attraction in south Kashmir.

The petitioners told the court that authorities have restricted the registration of tourist taxis with the petitioner-stands to only 600 vehicles.

The permission to operate taxis from other recognised stands would create a traffic chaos in Pahalgam and its adjoining areas like Aru Valley, Betaab Valley and Chandanwari, the Court was told.

The Court found that the authorities had taken the decision to allow taxis from other stands to operate in the area due to complaints from tourists that exorbitant rates were being charged by the vehicles of the two stands in Pahalgam.

“It is with a view to streamline the operation of the taxis in the area of Pahalgam and to ensure that there is healthy competition, the impugned decision appears to have been taken by a Committee headed by the Director, Tourism, which held its meeting on 13th April, 2024,” it noted.

However, the Court added that the authorities seem to have forgotten that taxis can operate only in areas for which they hold the permit.

It also noted that the Pahalgam Development Authority, in another proceeding, had informed a Division Bench of the Court that no commercial vehicle, except the ones registered with the taxi stands, shall be allowed to ply from Pahalgam to Aru or Chandanwari.

“This petition is accordingly disposed of by providing that the respondents shall not permit any taxi operator to operate its taxi on a route for which it does not hold the valid permit for plying the vehicles from Pahalgam to Aru Valley, Betab Valley, Chandanwari etc. and other tourist destinations, within the jurisdiction of Pahalgam Development Authority,” the Court ordered.

The Court, however, also said that authorities would be at a liberty to come up with a comprehensive policy to ensure that the taxi operators, whose livelihood is dependent upon the tourism in the Pahalgam area, are not deprived of their livelihood.

It added that authorities, at the same time, should ensure that there is no traffic chaos created in the township of Pahalgam and other tourist attractions around it.

Advocate Arif Sikander represented the petitioners. Government Advocate Ilyas Nazir Laway represented the State.




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