The Bombay high court directed bike-taxi aggregator Rapido to suspend its operations in Maharashtra since the service was being operated without a licence.
The suspension will remain in place till January 20.
A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and SG Dige directed Rapido to suspend all its services immediately within half an hour of passing the order on Friday.
The company provides two-wheeler passenger service, two-wheeler goods transport service and auto rickshaw service.
“All services will be suspended in Maharashtra and will be made unavailable until end of Jan 20,” said the court, clarifying that this will be without prejudice to the parties.
Within an hour of the order Rapido’s advocate Fereshte Sethna informed the court that its app has been made inoperative in the state.
The HC issued the order after hearing a petition filed by Roppen Transportation Services Private Limited, Rapido’s operator in Pune and Mumbai, challenging a communication issued to it by the state government on December 29, 2022, refusing to grant them a bike taxi aggregator licence.
The latest order was issued after Advocate General Dr Birendra Saraf informed the bench that Rapido has been operating without any licence.
“Let them discontinue this illegality before petition is heard. They can’t come to this court while running the services illegally,” said Dr Saraf.
Saraf also said that the government has formed a committee to look into the matter and explore formulation of guidelines for two-wheeler bike taxis.
“We are also in the process of issuing prohibition and initiating prosecution against entities which are operating bike taxis without licence,” he added.
The bench also rapped the company for operating bike-taxis in the state based on a Supreme Court status quo passed in another case.
Roppen argued that based on SC order of status quo, they had applied for a licence to run their service before the Maharashtra government, which was rejected.
However, it continued to operate its services.
“By putting such statements (in the petition) you are annoying the court. Putting words in our (HC) and SC’s mouth. Status quo will apply in respect of the matter in which status quo was passed. It was for four-wheelers and not for two-wheelers,” said Justice Patel.
Sethna emphasised that they had applied for licence before the authorities concerned but it was rejected.
She further pointed out that the government has failed to frame guidelines with regard to operations of taxi aggregators, be it two, three or four wheelers.
Roppen further defended itself, saying that it has complied with all the guidelines and conditions as required under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act.
Defense vs Bench
“Aggregator guideline are in force. I am as compliant as I can be. Based on this I applied for license which they rejected,” said Ms Sethna.
“No, you are not compliant. You are not going to ply in an unregulated manner,” said Justice Patel.
The justices remarked that there is a need for regulations with respect to safety standards, geographical areas where it can operate, among other things.