The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has taken a significant step in addressing the issue of exorbitant charges imposed by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) on Sabarimala pilgrims traveling between Nilakkal and Pampa. The CCI has ordered a detailed report from the Kerala government and KSRTC to investigate the alleged violation of Section 4 of the Competition Act, 2002.
The Information was filed by an informant under Section 19(1) (a) of the Act, accusing KSRTC of contravening competition provisions. In response to the filed complaint, the matter was directed to be relisted by the Commission in a subsequent meeting, as per the order dated 3rd January 2023.
During its recent deliberation, the Commission decided to seek comments and information from the Kerala government on several key aspects. These include the justification for granting exclusivity to KSRTC to operate buses on 31 routes, including the Nilakkal-Pampa route, as mentioned in the notification dated 14th July 2009 and subsequently modified by the government through the notification dated 23rd March 2017. The government is also requested to provide data on the total number of buses operated by KSRTC and private players in the state, the total number of bus routes, and the number of routes on which both private players and KSRTC operate buses.
Additionally, the Commission has directed KSRTC to respond to the filed Information and provide details regarding fares charged on the 31 routes, including the Nilakkal-Pampa route, for various types of passenger buses during the season and non-season periods. Specific information on fares charged by KSRTC during the Sabarimala season (November to January) on the Nilakkal-Pampa route is also required. Furthermore, KSRTC is expected to provide the standard fare for distances between 18-22 kilometers for various types of passenger buses on routes other than the 31 specified routes. The Commission has also asked for clarification on any objective justifications if the fare on the Nilakkal-Pampa route differs from that on other routes.
In light of these developments, a copy of the Information has been forwarded to the Kerala government and KSRTC, with a directive to submit their comments and responses within four weeks of receiving the order. The Informant has also been instructed to provide their response or comments within two weeks after the government and KSRTC submissions.
The Secretary of the Commission has been tasked with relisting the matter in a subsequent meeting once the comments and responses from the Informant, KSRTC, and the Kerala government have been received.
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