SC issues notice to Kerala govt, KSRTC on VHP's plea seeking nod to offer free ride for Sabarimala pilgrims

KSRTC chain services await Sabarimala pilgrims at Nilakkal bus stand. File photo: Manorama

The Supreme Court on Thursday (January 25) issued a notice to the Kerala Government and Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) on a petition filed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) seeking permission to operate vehicles offering free ride to Sabarimala pilgrims on Nilakkal-Pampa route, Live Law reported.

The bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice K V Viswanathan was hearing a special leave petition filed by the VHP challenging a judgment delivered by the Kerala High Court in 2023 that rejected the plea.

The counsel for he VHP stated that till the Covid season, vehicles were allowed till Pampa, from where the trek to the Sabarimala hill shrine starts. The distance between Nilakkal and Pampa is 22 km and only the KSRTC buses are allowed to ply on the route.

The counsel said that VHP offered to hold free services, but the State rejected idea. When the bench asked if the organisation was asking for a stage carriage permit or a contract carriage permit, the counsel said the organisation only wanted to offer free services.

Rejecting the plea, the Kerala High Court had observed that if VHP was allowed to operate special permit vehicles with pick and drop at the start and terminal points, it twill virtually become a stage carriage with a corridor restriction, which will violate permit conditions.

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