Uber and Ola ordered to obtain valid licenses in Maharashtra or shut down operations

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Bombay : Observing that app-based taxi companies such as Ola and Uber operating in Maharashtra without valid licenses were an example of ‘utter lawlessness’, the Bombay High Court on Monday ordered all such aggregators to apply for valid licenses by March 16 if they wish to continue operations.

The HC, however, refrained from banning these taxis from operating in the meantime, saying it was aware such a move would harm commuters. “We are aware that restricting aggregators, who have not yet obtained licenses, will act to the detriment of passengers who avail the services,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta.

The bench adopted the directions while hearing a public interest litigation filed by lawyer Savina Crasto pointing out the lack of an effective grievance mechanism for customers using the Uber India app. Crasto cited a November 2020 incident, when she booked an Uber ride in the city and was dropped off halfway “in a dark, shady place” and she discovered that the company’s app didn’t had no effective option to file complaints.

During previous hearings, the HC found that the Maharashtra government has yet to approve specific guidelines to license and regulate the operations of such taxi aggregators. Although the central government issued the Motor Vehicle Aggregators Guidelines, intended to regulate such taxis, those in the state operated on the basis of permits issued to them under Maharashtra City Taxi Rules 2017 .

On Monday, CJ Datta said the above arrangement was unacceptable and in violation of laws. “What are you (the Maharashtra government) doing? It’s complete anarchy. You are not following the law. The law is very clear: as long as the state government has no rules, you (the aggregators) will have to follow central government guidelines. We will prevent you (the aggregators) from operating,” the HC said.

Lead lawyer Janak Dwarkadas, who appeared for Uber India, told the court that the company had no intention of flouting the law and added that it had an effective grievance mechanism in place. its application. The HC, however, said such a mechanism alone was not adequate.

The HC said it was mandatory to have a license under the Motor Vehicles Act to regulate the operations of all these taxi aggregators. Dwarkadas further said that on March 5 this year, the Union government called a meeting with aggregators and stakeholders for suggestions on central aggregators rules and guidelines. “We made suggestions and objections via video conference. The same were also submitted in writing and are currently being considered,” he told the court. The HC, however, questioned whether this meant that aggregators could escape statutory guidelines until objections were resolved. “My son told me that Ola, Uber drivers were driving for long hours. My son took a photo and sent it to me. He had taken the wheel of the taxi along the highway in Noida because the driver was drowsy after being behind the wheel for 24 hours straight,” said CJ Datta, adding that these were the conditions in which the drivers had to work.

“We will give you (aggregators) seven days to apply for a license and an additional 10 days for the state to review it. The law must be followed,” HC said, and asked all aggregators to contact the Relevant Region Transport Authorities (RTOs) across Maharashtra for a license by March 16. “We are saddened that despite the central guidelines in place since 2020, the state government has allowed aggregators to operate in Maharashtra without following the guidelines,” he said. The state government must act on applications no later than a fortnight after receipt and there must be no unnecessary delay, the HC said, adding that in the meantime taxis will continue to operate as they currently are. The HC scheduled the case for a rehearing after four weeks.

This story was published from a news feed with no text edits. Only the title has been changed.

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