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Delhi govt extends ban on Uber; HC to hear the matter on Tuesday

The Delhi government has extended the ban on US-based taxi hailing service Uber. In its order ]on the January 1, the Delhi transport authority — which is acting as a quasi-judicial body — said the ban had been again imposed on the company along with its domestic counterpart, OlaCabs.

Both the companies have been found to be violating the Motor Vehicle Act since they were plying vehicles with All India Tourist permits within the national capital region. They were allegedly flouting several other rules such as running non-CNG taxis. The matter is now listed before the Delhi High Court, which is scheduled to hear the case on Tuesday morning. 

“They cannot be operating as they please… They have to follow the rules,” an official of the transport department told Business Standard. This means that the trouble for Uber in Delhi has escalated as the company cannot operate in Delhi unless the Court passes a judgement in its favour and revokes the ban. Also, despite the Radio Taxi Scheme being modified recently to accommodate taxi aggregators, the rules do not go well with the business model of Uber, making its return on the Capital’s streets a distant dream. 

Web based taxi companies including Uber and OlaCabs were banned from operating in Delhi on December 8 after a taxi driver on Uber’s network allegedly raped a 27-year-old finance executive. Uber and Ola had approached the Delhi Court requesting quashing of the ban orders. The Court had directed the Transport Authority to hear the petition and pass an order. While Ola had managed to receive a stay on the ban order, Uber was directed to appear before the transport department. After January 1st judgment, even Ola will have to stop its operations in Delhi once again. 

“We went through their petition and their representation and passed a detailed order on why we are taking such a decision. The ban continues with respect to both the companies,” said the official quoted above. Uber appeared before the transport department on December 29 and again on next day to submit additional documents. 

“The issue is that they have been operating All India tourist vehicles in violation of the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act. Tourist vehicle can start from somewhere in Delhi and have to go outside Delhi, other than that the local taxis have to operate on CNG, according to the MC Mehta judgment,” said the official. “Let’s see what happens next, the court has to hear the matter now,” the person added. 

Through the last few weeks, Uber has introduced new India-specific safety features to strengthen existing mechanisms. 

Though the amended Radio Taxi norms allows not only fleet owners but also aggregators to get licences, the regulations also make it impossible for companies such as Uber and Ola to operate under their current business model.

Any firm seeking a licence in Delhi — be it a fleet owner or an aggregator — will have to meet many mandatory requirements such as having prefixed calibrated meters in its cars, along with a GPS device. All cars on the network will also have to run on compressed natural gas (CNG). An LCD display panel has to be put on the roof of the car to indicate its a radio taxi and whether it is available or not. The colour of the radio taxi should be white, with a coloured strip on both sides of the taxi, prominently displaying the name of the licensee, according to the new rules.

In a response to the amended regulations, Uber had said that it is not a radio taxi company, therefore the Transport Department’s amendments to the radio taxi scheme do not help the company serve its riders and partner drivers in Delhi. “It also does not accurately reflect the primary role that the Information Act 2000 plays in regulating intermediaries like Uber. We are committed to working with the government to develop regulations based on a shared commitment to safety and a vision for how technology can improve the transportation environment in major urban areas in India,” Uber’s statement added.

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