No need for fine if route permits are issued in fair, just manner
By Charith Gabadage
The reason, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, Nimal Siripala De Silva, proposed the amendment of the Act, was due to the increased concern through the complaints the National Transport Commission (NTC) has been receiving regarding the inter-provincial buses that have been plying from the North to the South without legitimate route permits since the war in the country ended.
The amendment will make alterations to the National Transport Commission Act No. 37 of 1991, by which the National Transport Commission was setup. Section 40 of the above mentioned Act which includes policies regarding the offences will be amended to increase the fine charged for driving without a bus permit from Rs 10,000 to Rs 200,000.
The National Transport Commission, which was introduced to regulate inter-provincial bus services and establish regional transport authorities to regulate intra-provincial bus services, has issued approximately 3,500 route permits for buses until now, since the year 1991, in which year it was established. This includes 2054 normal route permits, 454 semi-luxury permits, 603 luxury permits and 94 super luxury permits.
The number of buses that operate in just the Northern area without the required bus permit adds up to around 100. One of the major reasons why the fine charged has to be raised to such an excessive amount like Rs 200,000 is that most of the buses operating without the necessary bus permits belong mainly to police officers and other government sector officials. So the government wishes to stop these sorts of illegal and unethical activities, said Deputy Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Ashok Abeysinghe when contacted by Ceylon Today.
He added that when apprehended these individuals get their buses released simply by paying the fine of Rs 10,000 and then get back into their daily operations without being scathed.
Deputy Minister Abeysinghe also said that these buses without permits, most commonly found on the routes Jaffna -Colombo and Vavuniya -Colombo, operate using old permits.
The Deputy Minster also stated that since the days of the ending of the war the NTC has been receiving complaints regarding these sorts of activities.
When Ceylon Today spoke to Gemunu Wijeratne, President of the Lanka Private Bus Owners' Association, regarding the issue of the proposed amendment Bill he responded saying that there is no need for a fine to be in place if the bus route permits are issued in a fair and just manner.
Issues such as this arise when regulatory bodies put in place by governments don't do their job right by intervening and regulating as they should when such circumstances arise. Considering a scenario where a bus owner with more than one bus that is looking alike is capable of removing the number plates and using the same permit for another bus of his, when his originally registered bus is out of commission. This sort of activity can only be identified if the investigative teams deployed by the National Transport Commission check and get the engine numbers and chassis numbers of the buses. Just the fine is an ineffective method to prevent such activities from happening.
Further emphasizing the point Wijeratne voiced his concerns regarding the underhand activities the National Transport Commission has been up to in the past as well as in the present. He claimed that officers of the National Transport Commission have been issuing route permits through underhand methods, by giving temporary permits and cheating in tenders called for the purpose of issuing permits, for money. He added that this sort of behaviour from government regulatory bodies like National Transport Commission has forced bus owners to get involved in wrongful activities such as cheating the government including in ways such as bus route permit fraud.
Moreover, he said that the issuance of bus route permits should be taken off the hands of government regulatory bodies such as the National Transport Commission because they have just been issuing permits, even when they issue permits, without preparing any timetables and also without even regulating them as they should.
In addition he also mentioned that there is no consideration of the well-being of the passengers in the way the regulatory bodies like the National Transport Commission is fulfilling their duties.
On the other hand, he also stated that any individual committing such wrongful acts should be fined but the fact about how government regulatory bodies have created the circumstances to encourage such wrongful acts should not be disregarded.
Bringing in another scenario in which the National Transport Commission has violated the trust the people have placed on the government and regulatory bodies Wijeratne divulged information on how there are buses close to the figure of 150 that are office transport buses, that travel on the highway itself, which are being used as office transport buses due to them being unable to get the necessary bus route permits.
Discussing further about the matter Wijeratne said that the solution is not charging a fine from the bus owners up to such activities but looking into their needs and providing them the permits through necessary means, whether it be by tenders or in any other manner. He concluded by saying that according to his understanding the charging of the fine does not happen to inconvenience the passengers at the moment; however the regulatory bodies in place to prevent such circumstances from arising, should take the above mentioned facts into consideration and take the necessary measures to ward off such circumstances.
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