The Maharashtra government on Tuesday filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court, defending the new rules introduced to regulate the operations of mobile app-based cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber. Calling the business tactics of cab aggregators “monopolistic”, “exploitative” and “predatory”, the government said the City Taxi Rules, 2017, had been imposed to bring about a level-playing field for all cab operators in the city and to “ensure better services to the commuters”.
The government’s affidavit came in reply to a petition filed by some drivers from Ola and Uber, who had challenged the new rules on the grounds that they made it difficult for them to get licences. The petitioners contended that the new rules did not allow app-based cabs to ply in the city on national tourist permits and instead made it mandatory for them to apply for new local permits if they wished to continue operations within city limits.
The existing permits restrict such cabs within the city of their registration. Also, to obtain local permits, the petitioners claimed they have to shell out more than 10 times what the drivers of black-and-yellow taxis have to pay. The government, however, said in its affidavit Ola and Uber had been flouting the Regional Transport Authority’s rules by plying intra-city on tourist vehicle permits. It said they were only permitted to ply as inter-city and inter-state tourist vehicles, not as intra-city taxis.
The affidavit further stated that the cab aggregators did not want their free reign pertaining to unregulated tariff regime curbed and that was the reason they were opposing the new rules. “They do not want to be regulated and want an unfettered playing field to further their monetary benefits and exploit the commuters at large,” the affidavit stated.
“The petitioners have predatory tactics; they aspire for a monopoly in the market and want to wipe out competition, including the common men who drive the black-and-yellow taxis. Such tactics cannot be permitted by a welfare state like Maharashtra,” it further said.
The government said merely because Ola and Uber were registered as mobile app-based technology companies, they could not be beyond the purview of the state’s transport rules. “Their app that fixes routes, decides fares, is neither regulated, nor subject to any scrutiny,” the affidavit stated.
The government’s counsel G W Mattos also told the court that the committee appointed earlier this year to fix the fare structure for such cabs had submitted its report and sought time till November 21 to place the government’s response on the same. While granting the state time, a bench headed by Justice Shantanu Kemkar ordered the state to refrain from taking any coercive action against Ola and Uber until then.