New Delhi: Boosting the Delhi government’s efforts to make public transport more attractive to commuters, the Delhi high court on Thursday dismissed a plea to scrap the 5.8km bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor in the capital.

Planning always has to be for the long term, the court said, refusing to call the implementation of the BRT an irrational decision. “There being no scope to expand the width of the existing roads and the population of Delhi continuously being on rise, we see no escape from the fact that the citizens of Delhi have to, one day or the other, use public transport," judges Pradeep Nandrajog and Manmohan Singh said.

The court’s statement that it would only intervene in government policy when there is a violation of the fundamental rights of citizens was welcomed by Dunu Roy, director of the Hazards Centre, a public organization that had joined the Delhi government to support BRT. “The PIL (public-interest litigation) should not have been entertained by the court as it does not talk about the rights of citizens, and instead talks about the rights of car and bus users," Roy said.

“Since 50% people are transported in buses, a dedicated lane for BRT is justified," Centre for Science and Environment, an advocacy group, said in a statement.

B.B. Sharan, who represented non-profit Nyaya Bhoomi in the court, disagreed. “Genuine grievances of the people have not been addressed by the court," Sharan said. “We will challenge the order in the Supreme Court."

The petition, filed by Nyaya Bhoomi, said BRT would be a harassment to commuters and a waste of public money. The court said that with the growing population of Delhi and the lack of scope to expand roads, the BRT as a project fit into long-term planning for mobility in the city.

“Even if we were to accept the argument that, as of today, with the implementation of the BRT corridor, some inconvenience is being caused across the board to everybody, we have to keep in mind that planning is always long-term and the fruits of the labour and sweat invested today may not be available in immediate future," the court said.

The court also questioned the utilization of funds under the Union government’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. “Cars, cars and cars and nothing else. And yet the roads are bursting on the seams," the court said in its judgement. “It could well be argued that when more than 50% of the road passengers travel by buses, it would be illogical and irrational to spend 98% of the grants under JNNURM with the targeted beneficiary being cars."

Cities such as Ahmedabad and Pune have implemented the BRT system with mixed results. While the Ahmedabad system is widely considered a success, the one in Pune has been criticized for poor implementation. Bangalore, Rajkot and Surat have also decided to implement the system to improve urban mobility and make public transport more attractive.

The existing BRT corridor in Delhi, from Ambedkar Nagar in the south to Kashmere Gate in the north, became operational on 20 April 2008.

A report by the Central Road Research Institute, prepared on the direction of the high court and submitted in May, had suggested allowing both buses and private vehicles on the dedicated bus lane to ease congestion on the route.

PTI contributed to this story.

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