Coming down heavily on app-based taxi service Ola for “taking the court for a ride” and “flouting all laws”, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday said it may uphold the Delhi government’s decision to ban all such services if the companies continued to operate without filing applications for fresh licences.
The court also emphasised that diesel-based commercial vehicles cannot be allowed to ply in the city under orders issued by the Supreme court and the National Green Tribunal to curb pollution levels.
The bench of Justice Manmohan pulled up the counsel for Ola cabs, advocate Khalid Arshad, after he sought more time to argue on the application for interim stay. The court is yet to issue notice on the main application to set aside the judgment.
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“How are you still operating after the (government’s) January 1 order? Where is the stay on that order?” asked the bench, after it was informed that the government had given a hearing to radio cab services in January following the court’s directions.
But the transport department had issued a second order denying permission to Ola cabs to operate in Delhi, which was challenged in the plea being heard now before the court.
The bench noted that taxi services had continued to operate even after the Delhi government ban. The court also took note of the “strident stand” taken by Ola cabs owner ANI Technologies that it did not fall within the definition of “radio taxis”.
Advocate Arshad maintained that the service was not required to fulfill the licence conditions laid down by the government as it was “merely an aggregator”.
“I was initially thinking that I shouldn’t ban you, but if you insist on plying without (following) rules then I will have to ban you… you have gone haywire. You are not agreeing to any conditions… your clients are taking the court for a ride. This is not an Ola cab, this is the court,” said an irate bench after the counsel for Ola continued to argue.
“We are trying to find a pragmatic solution and you’ve pushed me into a corner where I will be forced to uphold a complete ban,” warned the court.
The court also said diesel-based commercial vehicles cannot be allowed to ply in the city. “We will have to run on clean fuel. Diesel is not clean fuel,” the bench said.
Arshad, however, argued that all cabs operated by Ola were all-India permit taxis that comply with Euro-II or Euro-IV emission norms, and could not be banned from operating in Delhi.
But the bench said, “We are the most polluted city in the world. Posterity will not spare us, future generations will not spare us at all.”
The court will now pronounce its order on Ola’s plea on Wednesday.
Earlier during the hearing, the bench had also asked the counsel for the Delhi government if any “new rules” could be formulated for app-based services since “rules and policies” were “not in tune with ground reality”.