The Delhi High Court today threatened to stay the AAP government's move to procure 1,000 low-floor electric buses instead of standard-floor CNG buses, if it does not have an action plan to provide parking space for the vehicles.
"Will these 1,000 buses fly in air," a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the Delhi government and the Delhi Transport Corporation, after noting that purchase orders were issued without finalising a plan for parking space.
The court demanded a timeline from the Delhi government on its move to procure the 1,000 low-floor electric buses instead of the standard-floor CNG buses proposed earlier.
Stressing on the need for low-floor buses, the bench said: "We will not let this exclusivity (against handicapped persons) to persist in Delhi."
On an apparent lack of a plan to park the buses proposed to be procured, the court said: "We are unable to understand what would be the fate of these buses."
It told the Delhi government that ensuring parking space was "not like buying buses or potatoes".
"Land is something you cannot manufacture. So the concern should not be the cost, but optimal use of the land," the bench said after the government and the DTC said they have the space to park the buses and there was no need to build multi- level parking facilities as they were not economically viable.
Unconvinced by the government and the DTC's claims, the bench asked the Delhi chief secretary to "forthwith" convene a meeting of high-level officials and to place before the court an action plan on the nature of parking spaces, their design, the timeline within which the construction would be completed and their location.
The bench said it wants the action plan by February 28, the next date of hearing, and failure to do so would result in a stay on the tender as well as the initiation of contempt action against the officials concerned.
"We will then ensure decisions are taken," it said.
The court said its job was "not to run the government, ensure buses are bought and parking space is constructed".
"It is very painful for us to push for decision making," it said. The court was hearing a PIL by Nipun Malhotra, who suffers from a locomotor disability and has challenged the AAP government's move to procure 2,000 standard-floor buses at a cost of Rs 300 crore.
During the hearing, advocate Aman Panwar, appearing for Congress leader Ajay Maken, who has moved an application for more buses in the city, said that while the Supreme Court- appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) has recommended building of multi-level parking spaces, the government and the DTC were opposed to it.
The government and the DTC defended their stand, saying that multi-level parking spaces were not cost-effective and that they were examining the EPCA's 2016 report recommending such structures.
This prompted the bench to remark that it was told that the master plan for Delhi was amended to include multi-level parking on the 2016 recommendation of EPCA, but the government was only now examining the issue.
On the issue of procurement of additional buses for the city, the bench observed that no efforts have been made by the government on the issue and told it to put its house in order.
The Delhi government has taken the stand that it did not procure more low-floor buses from Tata or Ashok Leyland, who had initially supplied them, as these companies "jacked up" the annual maintenance costs of these vehicles.
To this, the bench remarked: "We do not want trumped up difficulties. You cannot maintain a Mercedes for the cost of a Maruti."
Advocate Jai Dehadrai, appearing for petitioner Malhotra, said Tata and Ashok Leyland have taken the stand that they increased the maintenance costs as the buses were carrying more passengers than they were expected to.
During the previous hearing, domestic bus manufacturers Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland had refuted the Delhi government and the DTC's claim that they were quoting "unrealistic and unreasonable" rates for low-floor buses.
The two manufacturers had told the court that the Delhi government has not floated any tender for procurement of low- floor buses since 2013-14.
They have also told the court that DTC's global tenders floated last year for 2,000 buses did not meet Indian standards, let alone international parameters.