The Kerala High Court while dealing with three connected criminal miscellaneous cases filed under Section 482 of the Cr.PC. has held that the owners or employees of bus cannot discriminate against students while boarding buses only because they are paying concession rate.

A Single Bench of Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan noted, “… as long as the student concessions are in force, the owners and the employees of a bus cannot take a discriminative stand against the students while boarding buses, only because they are paying the concession rate. Students and other passengers are on an equal footing. It is the duty of the police to see that there is no law and order problem in connection with the same.”

The Bench said that the student organisations and the government should look into the changed realities.

Advocates Anil Sivaraman and Sreedhar Ravindran appeared for the petitioner/accused while PP Maya M.N. appeared for the respondent/State.

In this case, the petitioners were conductors of three buses and the common allegation against them was that, they wrongfully restrained the students from boarding their bus and without taking these students, bus service was conducted and hence they committed the offence under Section 190(2) read with Section 196 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (MV Act).

The Magistrate took on file all these cases and the petitioners challenged these proceedings stating that no offence was made out against the petitioners even if the entire allegations are accepted. The short point to be decided was whether an offence under Section 190(2) read with Section 196 of MV Act is attracted based on the above allegation.

The High Court in the above context of the case observed, “… before parting with the facts of this case, some disturbing trends of the employees of private stage carriage buses and public transport employees are to be noted. In almost all bus stands and bus stops in Kerala, the employees of the buses do not allow the students to board the bus and prefer other passengers instead of students. This usually creates a law and order problem at several places.”

The Court said that the bus owners may have a grievance about the meagre amount they are getting from students because of their concession.

“It seems that, the student concession rate has not been enhanced even after several decades. The value of 50 paise and 1 rupee has changed a lot over the years. But whether the student concession is to be enhanced is a policy matter of the government in relation to which this court cannot issue any direction”, held the Court.

The Court added that the bus owners must take up such a demand with the government and the transport department.

“The State police chief will issue necessary directions to all its subordinates to avert all such law and order problems because of this rift between the students and the employees of the buses. … But in the facts and circumstances of these cases, no offence is made out in Annexure 1 Charge sheets”, concluded the Court.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the criminal miscellaneous pleas and quashed the proceedings before the Magistrate.

Cause Title- Siraj v. State of Kerala (Neutral Citation: 2023:KER:45811)

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