Railways' surcharge orders come under legal scrutiny

Railways' surcharge orders come under legal scrutiny

Sunday, 16 March 2008, 07:00 Hrs
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New Delhi: The Indian Railways could be in for some legal and political trouble as the Supreme Court has expressed the hope that parliament would examine several surcharges the Railways has levied through circulars and without parliament's formal approval.

A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran expressed the hope Friday that parliament would examine the issue during its current budget session. Earlier last week both houses of parliament passed the Railway Budget for 2008-09.

The bench made its observation when it admitted a public interest suit questioning the Railways' circulars and administrative orders to impose on passengers express surcharge, super fast surcharge and safety surcharge without first securing parliament's sanction.

Admitting the lawsuit by Coimbatore resident K. Kathirmathiyon, the bench said, "We would hear it if parliament does not discuss it in the present session."

Appearing for Kathirmathiyon, counsel N. Rajaraman told the apex court that the railways has been imposing additional taxes on commuters since 2003 through emergency circulars. The Indian Railways issued 93 circulars during fiscal 2006-07 and 106 during 2005-06, but without giving commensurate facilities to the passengers, said Rajaraman.

He told the bench that the Indian Railways issued 30 emergency circulars in 2003, and the number rose to 40 in 2004.

Maintaining that an administrative circular or order is valid only up to six weeks, Rajaraman pointed out that the railways issued the same circular time and again every six weeks to continue levying a surcharge.

"The collection of crores of rupees without the approval of parliament by emergency circulars issued deliberately after passage of the Railway Budget is an abuse of the discretionary powers vested with the railways," Rajaraman contended.

He also pointed out that a parliamentary standing committee on railways had also deprecated the imposition of additional burden on passengers without the approval of parliament.
Source: IANS
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