SC refused to entertain Rapido's plea against the Maharashtra government's refusal to grant two-wheeler bike taxi aggregator license to the company

SC refused to entertain Rapido's plea against the Maharashtra government's refusal to grant two-wheeler bike taxi aggregator license to the company

On February 7, the Supreme Court declined to hear Rapido's appeal of the Maharashtra government's decision to deny the firm a licence to operate as a two-wheeler bike taxi aggregator. However, the company was given permission to file a complaint with the Bombay High Court challenging the State government's notification from January 19, 2023, which had outlawed the use of non-transport vehicles (2,3, or 4-wheelers) for aggregation and carpooling. The bench was made up of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala.

Rapido's senior attorney Mukul Rohatgi made the initial argument that several requirements for obtaining a licence were "difficult to achieve." Furthermore, he claimed that Rapido's application had been unfairly denied since the State of Maharashtra did not have a programme for two-wheelers. He added–

"The Central policy says that each state needs to have a policy unless there are justifiable reasons for no policy. I say that the ban is illegal. They say that application has some defects. But those defects can't stand if you don't have a policy."

Per contra, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State of Maharashtra submitted–

"We don't say we don't have a scheme. We're saying we're examining whether to have two wheelers or not- for safety, traffic considerations."

CJI DY Chandrachud, while dictating the order, noted–

"The marginal note for Section 93 of the MV Act was substituted by amending statute. The effect of the amended provision is that no person can engage himself as an aggregator without a license from such authority and subject to conditions prescribed by state government."

The bench also noted that the Union Government created the Motor Vehicles Aggregator Guidelines 2020 as a result of the Act of 2019's amendments, which stated that "while issuing the licence to on aggregator, the state Government may follow such guidelines as may be issued by the Central Government." As a "guiding framework for State governments," the aforementioned rules have been published for licence issuance. The guidelines' clause 15 mandates that both the federal government and each state's government work toward lowering traffic congestion and pollution.

The court determined that the petitioner's licence application was turned down in this case because it didn't adhere to the terms and conditions of the 2020 standards. The petitioner filed a case against this at the Bombay High Court, which, while dismissing the appeal, went on to note that the 2020 guidelines provide state governments some leeway and that, as of right now, there is no state policy that would give the petitioner unlimited access to licences.

The Pune RTO had turned down Rapido's request for a licence in December 2022, the court further said. However, the Bombay High Court had remarked that there was no policy regarding the licencing of bike taxis in the State while hearing an appeal against the same. In response, the State of Maharashtra established a committee made up of senior IAS and government officials to investigate the matter, and on January 19, the State issued a notification outlawing the use of non-transport vehicles for the purpose of aggregation. 
The bench gave the following instructions after adjudicating the petitions:

1. Permitting the petitioner to reapply to the High Court in order to contest the state government's 19.01.2023 notification 

2. The High Court will consider the challenge without taking the previous order into account. 

3. The petitioner may pursue legal remedies after the state government makes a final decision. 

4. The state government must make a final decision on the issue before the committee by March 31, 2023. By March 15th, the committee must make a decision.

Diary No. 3314-2023

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