Faulty plea in HC brings back ban on agents in RTO
Nagpur: In a setback to agents operating at regional transport offices (RTO) across Maharashtra, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court, on Thursday, recalled its earlier order of interim stay on transport commissioner’s orders prohibiting entry of authorized representatives of transporter’s association in RTO premises.
In morning, a division bench of Justices Bhushan Gavai and Mridula Bhatkar granted stay as per its order of last Thursday to 45 petitioners led by Baljindarsingh Jaggi, who had filed petition through counsel JB Gandhi. After lunch break, government pleader Bharti Dangre pointed out to the court that one of prayers of petitioners was “defective” as it indirectly demanded entry for all agents along with authorized representatives of automobile dealers and transporters. She informed that if a stay was granted, all would get entry inside RTO.
The judges, while expressing anguish over the petitioners, vacated the interim stay and issued notice to respondents asking them to reply before February 20. They included Maharashtra chief secretary, home secretary, principal secretary of regional and transport ministry, and state transport commissioner. Both Dangre and Gandhi confirmed the stay was vacated by the court.
Last Thursday, the same bench had granted an interim stay on the Akola RTO’s move to prohibit authorized representatives of automobile dealers from entering its premises and issued show cause notices to same respondents. Both cases would be heard on February 20. Citing earlier high court judgment of June 6, 2002, the petitioners contended authorized representatives of such dealers were permitted to enter RTO premises after completing certain formalities. However, RTO’s recent move was hampering their work, they complained.
The trouble started for the agents when transport commissioner Mahesh Zagade, through a letter of January 12, warned officials and clerks at various RTOs of strict action including suspension if any agent/tout was found on the premises. RTOs were also asked to give in writing they had completely barred agents from entering the premises. Zagade also cautioned he would conduct surprise visits and initiate disciplinary action if agents were found at RTOs.
The petitioners challenged Zagade’s directives contending that being owners of vehicles, they’re required to comply with the procedure and rules under the Motor Vehicles Act for obtaining necessary documents from the transport department. Some of the petitioners own multiple vehicles and it was impossible for them to personally visit the RTO for obtaining all the documents all the time. The petitioners stated they would not be in a position to carry on their business if they had to visit RTO personally for completing all formalities.