Following the Bombay High Court’s warning of severe action for operating without a licence, the Roppen Transportation Services Private Limited, which operates the Rapido Taxi services in Mumbai and Pune, issued a statement saying that all of its services in the state of Maharashtra will be suspended until January 20, 2023. This announcement was made after the High Court issued its warning.
A petition was brought before a division bench consisting of Justices G. S. Patel and S. G. Dige by a bike taxi aggregator, challenging the refusal of the state government to grant licences to entities such as the petitioner through a notification issued by the state on December 29, 2022. The hearing was taking place before the bench.
The state government informed the court that the petitioner bike-taxi aggregator did not have licences for the services that included two-wheeler passenger service, two-wheeler parcel service, and autorickshaw service. The bench was apprised of this information.
The court issued a warning to the firm, stating that if it did not immediately cease operations, the court would dismiss the plea, imposing penalties on the company, and ordering the authorities to prohibit the company from applying for licences in the future.
The bench said, “The petition ought to be dismissed. Your plea is based on one flawed premise. You thought there were guidelines and that you could run services without a license. In other words, you want us to defend illegality under Article 226 of the Constitution.but we will not grant it. The state’s entire team is present. They will be watching over you like hawks. “If you make one mistake, we will dismiss the petition.”
Advocate Fereshte Sethna, who is representing the petitioner, made a statement that all of its services, including bike taxi aggregators, delivery services, and autorickshaws all over Maharashtra, will be suspended until January 20. This statement was made in accordance with instructions from the petitioner’s officials. Sethna said that although they do not now possess licences for the aforementioned services, their applications for these permits are currently being considered by the relevant authorities. The court agreed with the statement and indicated that all of the company’s other contentions would be preserved for further consideration.
It then requested that the firm stop providing its services by 1 p.m. on Friday, and at 1.15 p.m., the company’s lawyer told the judge that the company’s mobile application had been rendered inactive.
In the meantime, Advocate General Birendra Saraf appeared on behalf of the state government and stated that it has formed an independent committee to prepare a comprehensive policy for bike taxi aggregation. The committee is being led by a retired IAS officer named Ramanath Jha, and the state government will submit the report within three months with regard to this matter.
However, he reiterated that at this time, the bike taxis cannot be allowed to ply because there is no policy or guidelines in place, and until such time as they are formed, the state wants to immediately put a stop to such services, including the petitioner’s, which were operating without licenses. He said that this was because there was no policy or set of guidelines in place.
Saraf has provided an exhaustive list of aggregators operating bike taxis within the state without the necessary licence and has said that action has already been taken against some of them.
The bench had questioned the state on January 10 on the delay and ambiguity in drafting a policy on permitting bike taxis to ply their trade in the state. They had also stated that the problem could not be “kept hanging over the fire.”