Wearing seat belt made compulsory in buses too, says Kerala RTO; what about standing passengers?

Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala): With the amended Motor Vehicle Act, wearing a seatbelt in buses too is included as per law, said an RTO in Kerala. A sum of Rs 1000 will be charged as fine from passengers or RC owner if one seat has no seat belt. The rule is included in the article 194-A of the amended Motor Vehicle Act, he pointed out. However, there is no clarity about how the law would affect the standing passengers.

A division bench of Chief Justice Antony Dominic, acting on a petition filed by a social organisation, earlier had said that as per the Motor Vehicle Act, passengers should not be allowed to travel while standing. However, to surpass the verdict, KSRTC amended its Kerala Motor Vehicle (KMV) Act allowing standing passengers on its superclass bus category. Earlier, while the Supreme Court banned bars functioning in national and state highways, the Kerala government had changed the status of state roads to district roads to surpass the verdict.

As per motor vehicle law, in buses, 25 per cent of the seating capacity minus two including driver and conductor seats is considered as its standing capacity. Rs 600 per seat and Rs 210 per standing passenger are levied as permit charge during registration. If more passengers than the permitted capacity are travelling on the bus, Rs 200 per every extra passenger can be levied. However, crowded buses are common seen in the state, including that in State-owned buses.

Putting passengers’ safety at risk, private as well as state buses conducting overcrowded trips to various locations with their passengers sandwiched between seats and aisles during peak hours. Though city buses are allowed to have a maximum of 70 to 80 passengers at a time, some of the bus operators are letting in more than 100 passengers because of the poor surveillance measures in place. On some of the routes where the violation is rampant, drivers justify their act saying that passengers do not have the required number of bus services.

While the Road Transport Authority in Kerala is still confused about implementing the amended rules, standing passengers in buses have become another concern in the state. Though the state government should issue a special order to avoid standing passengers in buses and publish the order in the gazette, there is no sign of the state Motor Vehicle Department acting on this. This has further added to the complexity, experts say.