BENGALURU: The High Court on Wednesday directed the Transport Department authorities not to take any coercive action against the all-India tourist taxi operators under the Karnataka On-demand Transportation Technology Aggregators Rules, 2016.
A division bench of Chief Justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee and Justice R B Budihal passed an interim order that the authorities shall not take any coercive action against the taxi operators who are plying after obtaining licence under Section 88(9) of the Motor Vehicles Act, and shall not take action against the appellants for violation of the Aggregators Rules, 2016.
This was after hearing an appeal filed by taxi operators against the single-judge bench order which upheld the Karnataka On-demand Transportation Technology Aggregators Rules, 2016, framed by the state government for safety of commuters.“During the pendency of these matters, the appellants shall obtain licence from the authorities subject to the result of the writ appeals,” the bench said.
Meanwhile, the senior counsel representing Uber (appellant), informed the court that the appellants shall not charge surge price from commuters. The counsel argued that social justice cannot be met through bureaucracy. In its appeal, Uber has challenged the order of the single-judge bench which upheld the Rules relating to minimum two years domicile status for drivers, implementation of panic button system, working knowledge of Kannada and the requirement of an aggregator to collect details about the criminal antecedents of drivers, etc.
The counsel representing the Radio Taxi Operators Association argued that the impugned Rules are upheld by the single-judge bench based on the verdict of the Supreme Court.
In their appeals, the drivers have contended that the Aggregator Rules should be struck down for want of authority and as being ultra vires to the Motor Vehicles Act. In the wake of the Rules having come into force, transport officials have been indiscriminately impounding vehicles owned by drivers-subscribers of aggregator platforms and are subjecting them to harassment, they said.
They also claimed that the state did not allow a reasonable time period for taxi owners, who are drivers-subscribers to make necessary arrangements to comply with the Rules to the extent possible, they said. They also challenged Rule-8 fixing qualification for drivers and Rule-8(1) and Rule 8(d) with regard to restrictions on the place of residence of a taxi driver, while also mandating that a driver has working knowledge of Kannada and another language, preferably English. They also disputed Rule 8 (c), which specifically requires that any taxi driver should have been a resident of Karnataka for a minimum period of two years. These stipulations have no rational nexus with any aspect of a driver’s ability to perform his role of ferrying passengers in a taxi, they said.
Additional Advocate General A S Ponnanna strongly opposed the passing of an interim order and pointed out the undertaking given by Uber before the single-judge bench that they will not charge surge price.