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The Bombay High Court today sought to know what is the illegality in web and app-based companies like Ola and Uber using tourist vehicles to run their services.
A division bench of justices V M Kanade and A S Gadkari was hearing a petition filed by Association of Radio Taxis, which include cabs like Meru, Mega and Tabcabs, seeking a complete ban on Ola and Uber.
The petition's contention is that these cabs are plying with tourist permits and not on electronic meters unlike other taxis in the state and hence there is no regulation on the fare prices.
According to the petition, taxi transport services can be provided only by those taxi owners who possess necessary contract permit issued by the state government under the Motor Vehicles Act.
The court today, while posting the petition for final hearing on March 23, said, "We would like to first know if there is any prohibition under the Act (Motor Vehicles) and what is the illegality in providing such services in tourist vehicles?"
"We have heard that after Uber and Ola services have started even those people who normally do not take 'kali peeli' (black and yellow taxis) have started travelling in cabs (Uber and Ola)," Justice Kanade said.
To this, senior counsel Iqbal Chagla, appearing for Ola, said these cab services are consumer friendly and hence popular.
The petitioner's counsel Aspi Chinoy told the court that drivers of Meru, Tabcabs and Mega are given Public Service Vehicle (PSV) badges which are issued by the government's State Transport Authority after verifying the antecedents of the driver.
"This is mandatory under the Motor Vehicles Act. But Uber and Ola have bypassed these provisions and the government is not taking any steps to stop them," Chinoy argued.
He added that Meru, Mega and Tabcabs vehicles are fitted with a functioning electronic meter and charge only the specified and regulated fare.
According to the petition, the fare has to be as per the one fixed by the Roads and Transport Authority and no other charge like surge pricing can be recovered from the passenger.
"Under section 88(9) of the Motor Vehicle Act, tourist vehicles are granted permits to promote tourism and hence cannot be used as taxis or cabs. Uber and Ola are in effect and substance running a scheme without having applied for and received the necessary license and hence are clearly violating the provisions of the law," claimed the plea.