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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Maharashtra govt to HC: Cab aggregators required to follow Centre’s guidelines, can’t have ‘free hand’

Uber India submitted that while it has taken all measures for the safety of riders and drivers, there are no rules or guidelines in place in Maharashtra for applying for a license.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: January 11, 2022 9:16:10 am
"In the interim, Uber has taken all steps possible to ensure the safety of its riders and drivers and has provided a detailed mechanism to make its mobile based application user and consumer friendly and also provide safe and effective services and rides," Uber said. (Representative Image)

The Maharashtra government on Monday told the Bombay High Court that no application has been made by Uber India to obtain a license as per the Motor Vehicle (MV) Act, 1988.

Stating that cab aggregators do not have a “free hand”, the state government added that in the event such an application is received, they are required to act in accordance with the Centre’s Motor Vehicles Aggregators Guidelines, 2020, until the new rules under The Maharashtra Regulation of Aggregator Rules, 2021, and approvals come into effect.

Uber India submitted that while it has taken all measures for the safety of riders and drivers, there are no rules or guidelines in place in Maharashtra for applying for a license. It also said that other aggregators providing similar services have also not obtained the license.

The HC on December 21 last year had directed the Maharashtra government to submit an affidavit on the statutory regime for operation of application-based cabs such as Uber along with the terms and conditions attached to licenses issued to cab aggregators as per the MV Act.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Makarand S Karnik has been hearing a PIL filed by city-based advocate Savina Crasto, who raised grievances regarding “complex and ineffective” redressal mechanism provided by an app-based cab aggregator.

The state government had said the Maharashtra City Taxi Rules, a regulatory policy, was framed in 2017 and after it was challenged in the High Court, a status quo was ordered by the court and the same are in abeyance since then.

The state government in an affidavit filed through Jitendra B Patil, Deputy Transport Commissioner, stated that the term “aggregators” was introduced by the legislature only in 2019 and until then there was no requirement for them to obtain a license and there was no separate mechanism to regulate their licensing, except for 2017 rules, which stood suspended.

It further said that the draft Maharashtra Regulation of Aggregators Rules, 2021, which are framed based on the Centre’s 2020 guidelines are pending approvals. “In view of the pandemic, the process for finalizing and publishing new rules has been severely affected. However, the state undertakes to bring into effect the 2021 Rules promptly once the same is finalized,” it added.

The affidavit stated that to date, Uber has not made any application to it for obtaining a license as mandated under section 93 of the MV Act.

However, the affidavit filed through an authorized representative of Uber India stated, “As of today, the state government has not published any rules in the Official Gazette under the section 93 MV Act. There are no rules/guidelines in place in Maharashtra indicating the manner or procedure for applying for license and there is no clarity whatsoever on the conditions of grant of license, including the operational infrastructure and other compliances that the respondent is required to maintain/adhere in order to be eligible for a license.

It added, “In the interim, Uber has taken all steps possible to ensure the safety of its riders and drivers and has provided a detailed mechanism to make its mobile based application user and consumer friendly and also provide safe and effective services and rides.”

Stating that the matter requires a physical hearing and therefore it can wait for some time, the HC said the petitioner can file a rejoinder and posted it to February 21.

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