The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to grant relief to bike-taxi aggregator Rapido against denial of licence to it by the Maharashtra government.
The top court noted that amendments made to the Motor Vehicles Act in 2019 make it clear that aggregators cannot operate without a valid licence. A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala noted that Pune's Regional Transport Office (RTO) had rejected its plea for licence in December 21 last year.
The bench said Roppen Transportation Services Private Limited (Rapido) can approach the Bombay High Court challenging the notification of the state government dated January 19, which had prohibited the use of "non-transport vehicle" from car pooling It stated that the validity of the order of the RTO in December last year would stand subsumed by the subsequent wider decision of the state government.
During the hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the bike-taxi aggregator, said the Maharashtra government does not have a scheme for two-wheelers, and therefore, the application for licence has been wrongly rejected.
He said certain conditions, which were necessary to obtain a licence, were actually impossible to achieve for the company.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, along with advocates Siddharth Dharmadhikari and Abhikalp Pratap Singh, appearing for the state government said, "State is examining whether to have two-wheelers or not as taxi for safety and traffic consideration. We are not saying, we don't have a policy".
The top court noted in its order that effect of amended provisions in the Motor Vehicles Act is that no person can engage himself as an aggregator without a licence from such authority and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by the state government.
It said in terms of first proviso of section 93 of Motor Vehicles Act, the state government while issuing the licence to an aggregator may follow such guidelines as issued by the central government and the general rule making power has been entrusted to the state government.
The bench noted that Rapido's application for licence was rejected on the ground that it didn't comply with the terms and conditions of the state's guidelines of 2020. On January 27, the top court had agreed to hear the plea of Rapido against the Bombay High Court order directing it to suspend its services in Maharashtra immediately for operating without a licence from the state government.
On January 13, the high court had pulled up the aggregator for operating without procuring a license from the Maharashtra government and directed it to suspend the services immediately.
It had warned Rapido to either suspend its bike taxi services immediately or the court would issue directions to state authorities to permanently bar the company from getting any licence.
It had noted that in the absence of a licence, the company cannot run its services in an unregulated manner.
Rapido had moved the high court against a communication issued to it by the state government on December 29, 2022 refusing to grant a bike taxi aggregator's licence.
The state government had in its letter said it had no policy on the licensing of bike taxis nor a fare structure for them.
The company had assured the high court it will suspend its services till January 20 when the court would hear the matter further.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)