Commuting from point A to point B forms an integral part of our daily lives. In our rush to reach our destination, we usually take the means of transport for granted. But have you ever stopped for a minute to think what your rights as commuters are? Have you ever wondered if transporters are liable to penalties if the service is unsatisfactory or in any way lacking?
This week, The Express Tribune looks at the laws, rules and regulations that are in place to protect your rights as commuters.
There is no specific mention of commuters’ rights in the Constitution of Pakistan. According to legal experts, jurists rely on Article 9, which relates to the ‘right to life’ of the citizen, for the protection of the commuters rights. There are, however, comprehensive laws regarding the rights of motorists, commuters and other road users available in the shape of the Punjab Motor Vehicle Ordinance, 1965, and the Motor Vehicle Rules, 1969.
Under the provisions of the Punjab Motor Vehicle Ordinance, 1965, every commuter has the right to travel in public buses while seated throughout the journey. The driver or the conductor is not permitted to welcome a single passenger beyond the sitting capacity. The commuters are entitled to enjoy a safe ride. The passengers’ safety is the responsibility of the driver, who may be penalised if found putting the commuters’ safety in danger through reckless driving. The conductor is required to behave in a decent manner. The commuters are required to pay fares, officially fixed in proportion to the distance
All public transport vehicles must have comfortable seating and their windows should be intact. Larger vehicles must have an emergency exit.
Public buses and minibuses have a separate portion reserved for women only. The law restricts males from travelling in the female compartments.
Where to complain?
In case of a violation of the above rights, a passenger can register a complaint either with the office of the transport minister, the secretary or the deputy inspector general of the traffic police. These authorities are required by the Constitution to act upon pubic complaints swiftly. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.
There is no dedicated department to deal with public complaints regarding public transport. The only forum available to the public is to knock the doors of the court, said the environmental attorney, Qazi Ali Athar. The lawyer has filed a number of constitutional petitions with the Sindh High Court for the removal of outdated and smoke-emitting public vehicles.
The presence of laws is good, but their lack of implementation is an entirely different matter. The previous governments proudly declared Karachi as the sister city of at least 16 international cities, including Dubai and Kuala Lampur. They failed, however, to improve its public transport system and bring it up to par with the sister cities.
It must be remembered, however, that each person using public transport has the right to seek better facilities against the payments.
The public transport owners or operators can be sued for damages in case of death or injury to a passenger on board due to negligence of the driver or fault in the vehicle’s engine under Sections 53, 58 and 671 of the Punjab Motor Vehicle Ordinance 1965.
The law says that any injury which endangers the life or causes the victim to be, during the space of 20 days, in severe bodily pain or renders him unable to follow his ordinary pursuits is liable to damages worth Rs2,000.
According to the Punjab Motor Vehicle Ordinance 1965, the scale of compensation payable on death or injury to a passenger in a stage carriage or contract carriage are:
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2014.
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