The High Court has ordered the government to explain why a tender notice issued to recruit bus operators on five routes of Bangladesh-India bus service for two years – without fixing the fare first – should not be declared illegal.
The bench of Justice Md Ashfaqul Islam and Justice Ashish Ranjan Das issued the ruling on Sunday after hearing a writ petition filed by Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, a passengers' welfare association.
Journalists received copies of the court's ruling on Thursday.
The tender notice was published in the Daily Jugantor on July 4.
The High Court also instructed the government to resolve within a month an appeal made by the passengers' welfare association urging the authorities concerned to take measures to stop unregulated fare charging by the bus service providers violating the bilateral bus service protocol.
Following the ruling, Mozammel said: “According to the conditions set by the government-to-government protocol on the bus fare for the Dhaka-Kolkata route, the fare is supposed to be $11 or Tk920, yet both the BRTC and the private transport services operating on the route are charging Tk1,700-2,000 per passenger, causing a financial loss to at least 8,000 passengers every day.”
He further said since the bus service on the Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka route became popular among travellers soon after it was inaugurated, the two neighbouring countries launched bus services on four more routes: Agartala-Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala, Dhaka-Khulna-Kolkata-Dhaka, Dhaka-Agartala-Dhaka and Dhaka-Sylhet-Shillong-Guwahati-Dhaka.
“But the fares on these four routes have not been fixed yet, so the bus operators on these routes are charging fares as they please.”
In this circumstance, Mozammel said recruiting bus operators on these routes would make the situation worse.
Before recruiting the operators, the fare on the five routes should be fixed in accordance with the Bangladesh-India bus service protocol signed in 1999 and a gazette notification should be published in this regard, he added.
“We sent a letter to the government agency concerned addressing this issue on July 13. As the agency did not respond to the letter, I filed the writ petition with the High Court,” Mozammel said.
The road transport and bridges secretary, the foreign secretary, the chairman of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) and the chairman and deputy general manager (operations) of Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) were ordered to respond to the ruling within four weeks.
Barrister ABM Altaf Hossain and ARM Kamruzzaman Kakon represented the petitioner at the court.
This story was first published on the Bangla Tribune