Mumbai: Observing that bike-taxi aggregator Rapido was being operated in Maharashtra without valid license, the Bombay high court on Friday directed it to suspend its operations in the state immediately till January 20.
A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and SG Dige directed Rapido to suspend all it services – two-wheeler passenger service, two-wheeler goods transport service and auto rickshaw service – immediately within half an hour of passing the order.
“All services will be suspended in Maharashtra and will be made unavailable until end of Jan 20,” said the court clarifying that this will be without prejudice to the parties.
Within an hour, the aggregator makes it app inoperative in the state
Within an hour of the order, the Rapido’s advocate Fereshte Sethna informed the court that its App has been made inoperative in the state.
The HC was hearing a petition filed by Roppen Transportation Services Private Limited, operator of Rapido bike taxi services in Pune and Mumbai, challenging a communication issued to it by the state government on December 29, 2022, refusing to allow them a bike taxi aggregator licence.
The bench asked Rapido to suspend its services after Advocate General Dr Birendra Saraf informed that it has been operating without any license. “Let them discontinue this illegality before petition is heard. They can’t come to this court while running the services illegally,” said Dr Saraf.
A committee is formed by government to formulate guidelines for two-wheeler bike taxis
Dr Saraf also said that the government has formed a committee to analyse the entire thing and explore formulation of guidelines for two-wheeler bike taxis. “We are also in the process of issuing prohibition and initiating prosecution against entities which are operating bike taxis without license,” he added.
The bench also rapped the aggregator service provider for operating bike-taxis in the state based on a Supreme Court status quo passed in another case.
Roppen company claimed of applying for license
Roppen contended that based on SC order of status quo, they had applied for license to operate two-wheeler taxis before the Maharashtra government, which was rejected. However, it continued to operate its services.
“By putting such statements (in the petition) you are annoying the court. Putting words in our (HC) and SC’s mouth. Status quo will apply in respect of the matter in which status quo was passed. It was for four-wheelers and not for two-wheelers,” said Justice Patel.
Ms Sethna emphasised that they had applied for license before the authorities concerned but it was rejected. It was pointed out that the government has failed to frame guidelines with regard to operations of taxi aggregators, be it two, three or four wheelers.
Roppen contended that it complied with all guidelines and conditions
However, Roppen contended that it has complied with all the guidelines and conditions as required under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act. “Aggregator guideline are in force. I am as compliant as I can be. Based on this I applied for license which they rejected,” said Ms Sethna.
“No, you are not complaint. You are not going to ply in an unregulated manner,” quipped Justice Patel.
The justices remarked that there is requirement of regulations with respect to safety standards, geographical areas where it can operate, among other things.
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