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India’s Supreme Court seeks the central government’s opinion on allowing bike-taxi aggregators like Rapido and Uber in Delhi, and inquiries about the insurance coverage for such services.

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Keywords: – Rapido, Delhi, Aggregator, Motor Vehicle Act, High Court.

On Friday, the Supreme Court requested the central government to provide a response in a petition that challenges the Delhi High Court’s ruling. The High Court’s order allowed bike-taxi aggregators Rapido and Uber to operate without aggregator licenses until a final policy on the matter is officially notified. The special leave petition was filed by the Delhi Government, contesting the High Court’s decision to stay the notices issued against Rapido and Uber. The Supreme Court’s bench, comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Rajesh Bindal, was overseeing the proceedings.

“Let the copy of both petitions be served upon the Solicitor General so that views of the Union of India can be taken into account. List on Monday”, the bench ordered.

In today’s hearing, Senior Advocate Manish Vashisht, representing the Delhi government, contended that the high court’s ruling, which suspended the government’s notice until the final policy is implemented, effectively grants approval to Rapido’s writ petition.

“There’s no way to offend the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act on a daily basis. Look at the order, the High Court has passed a non-speaking order”, the counsel added.

The Delhi High Court, on May 26, served a notice to the Delhi government in response to Rapido’s plea. The court directed that no coercive measures be taken against the bike-taxi aggregator until an official notification of the final policy. Furthermore, in February 2023, the Delhi Transport Department issued a public notice, mandating the immediate discontinuation of their bike taxi services.

The Bench inquired with the Delhi government about whether the bike taxis currently operating have private number plates. They questioned whether this requirement applies specifically to two-wheelers, as these aggregators have been given permission to operate with private number plates. In response to the Bench’s query, Vashisht stated that according to the Motor Vehicles Rules, aggregators are required to obtain a license to operate in this manner.

“They have not been allowed to operate for any purposes which covers commercial usage or…They are all having private number plates”. The counsel also made reference to the definition of a motor cycle as stated in Section 2 (27), as well as the requirement to obtain a license as mentioned in Section 93 of the Act.

“Have you started a licensing regime for the aggregators?”, the Court proceeded to ask. “We have drafted the policy [Delhi Motor Vehicle Aggregator Scheme, 2023], public notices have been invited to participate and give objections”, the counsel said while adding that this process would be completed in a month. The Limitation period for submitting objections is expiring on June 24, he informed.

“But there’s a ramification. If there’s an accident, then no one will get insurance”, the Bench said, pointing out the higher risk for bike-taxis.

Appearing for Uber, Senior Advocate NK Kaul stated that the insurance cover is there for the drivers and that Uber is only an aggregator.

“Should your Lordships interfere with this interim order? What is the challenge pending before the High Court? These are important questions…. These People are operating across the country as aggregators, they don’t own the vehicle; it just brings a person who has two wheelers or taxi on a platform. It’s a great facilitator all over the world.”

Adding on, he submitted, “They have been operating since 2019. The law is this, the Government of India came up with guidelines, in 2004, it said aggregators can use two wheelers and four wheelers, both”.

 Those were only guidelines and not a policy, Manish countered.

In the petition submitted to the Supreme Court, the Delhi government stated that due to the interim order of the High Court, Uber and Rapido are currently utilizing non-transport vehicles, including two-wheelers, for aggregation and ride pooling. According to the Delhi government, this practice is not permitted under the Motor Vehicles Act and the Motor Vehicle Aggregator Guidelines of 2020 without obtaining valid permits.

Case Title: GNCTD v Roppen Transportation Services Private Limited.

Written by- Mubashara Fatima, College name- Unity PG and Law College, Semester- 6th, intern under Legal Vidhiya

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