By LE Desk

Panaji, June 22, 2021: The Goa bench of the Bombay high court has declined to exempt tourist taxi operators from installing digital taxi meters, but agreed to hear them in greater detail after the Goa government strongly opposed any differential treatment to the cabs. The government said the cabs allegedly fleece tourists and sometimes even charge them “higher than the flight tickets” bought to reach Goa.

The Cavelossim Tourist Taxi Operators Association, which petitioned the high court, argued that tourist taxi operators should not be treated on par with regular taxis that ferry people from one location to another.

“There is no rationale on insisting that tourist vehicles be fitted with compulsory digital fare meters as there is no such requirement in the Motor Vehicles Act 1988, and the Rules framed thereunder of fitting compulsory fare meters to the tourist taxi vehicles,” the association told the high court, reported the Hindustan Times.

The petitioners reasoned that they do not operate as regular taxi cabs and do not use their vehicles to transport passengers and tourists from point-to-point or from taxi stands as regular cabs do but their vehicles are affiliated to hotels, travel agencies and transport contractors and the rate for transportation is fixed depending upon the type of service, degree of service, destination and travel distance.

Devidas Pangam, the Goa government’s top law officer, however, told the court that the government didn’t leave any scope for any distinction between different taxi services and everyone would have to install the digital meters.

“There is a serious issue of overcharging from the tourists and locals by all the motor cabs in the state of Goa. There are complaints that the charges demanded by the motor cabs are at times higher than the flight tickets. Some amount of regulation is absolutely necessary. Grant of interim relief, would virtually amount to grant of final relief at the interim stage,” the Advocate General told the Court.

The bench of Justices MS Sonak and MS Jawalkar declined a stay on the government order, ruling that “no case is made out for grant of any interim relief, save and except to observe that the compliances can be without prejudice”, reported HT.

The high court has also been hearing petitions filed by the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa which complained that the state government hadn’t taken steps to comply with the directions of the high court in a 2016 petition filed by them. The government subsequently had hurriedly rolled out a taxi scheme ordering that taxis will not have their licenses renewed if they do not install the meters.

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