Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ and Vinay Joshi, J., directed UBER and other transport aggregators who have not obtained a license as per Section 93(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act to apply for the license before 16th March 2022 otherwise they shall not be able to operate in the State of Maharashtra.
In the Public Interest Litigation filed, one of the prayers was a direction on respondents 1 and 2 to ensure implementation of Motor Vehicle Aggregator Guidelines-2020.
Uber (Respondent 3) was a Transport Aggregator in the present matter.
Section 93(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 required an aggregator to obtain a license from such authority and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by the State Government. The said proviso provided that while issuing license, the State Government may follow such guidelines as may be issued by the Centre. Whereas Sub-Section 2 of 93 referred to matters which could be included as conditions of such license.
Analysis and Decision
High Court expressed that Section 93(1) is couched in negative language and once it is statutory mandate that no person shall engage himself as an aggregator unless a license is obtained, it is absolutely inappropriate for the State of Maharashtra (respondent 2) to allow such person to continue as an aggregator without he/it obtaining such a license.
Bench added that, no doubt that the Maharashtra Regulation of Aggregators Rules 2021 are still at the draft stage but till such time the said draft rules are finalized for being complied with, the 2020 Guidelines framed by the Centre would hold the field and any person willing to operate as an aggregator must follow the regulatory framework brought about by such guidelines.
Pained to observe that despite new statutory provisions having been brought into force in 2019 by amending Section 93 and the guidelines having been framed in November 2020, the respondent 2 permitted an aggregator like UBER to operate in Maharashtra without insisting for compliance of the statutory requisite.
Further, Court was also conscious of the fact that restraining the operation of UBER would cause immense prejudice and detriment of the passengers who avail of the services provided by it.
Therefore, High Court granted an opportunity to UBER and other unlicensed aggregators to apply for license as required by the provision concerned.
Lastly, the Bench directed the Transport Department of the State Government to issue an appropriate notification in the Official Gazette forthwith and not later than 9th March, 2022 empowering each and every Regional Transport Authority in the State of Maharashtra to act as the Licensing Authority for grant of license under sub-section (1) of Section 93 of the Act.
All the Operators have been directed to apply for the license by 16th March, 2022 and in case the application before the said date is not received, then the unlicensed aggregator will not be permitted to carry on further operations in the State of Maharashtra.
PIL to be listed on 4-4-2022 for reporting developments. [Savino R. Crasto v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine Bom 490, decided on 7-3-2022]
Advocates before the Court:
Ms. Savina R. Crasto, petitioner-in-person, present.
Mr. Rajshekar V. Govilkar for respondent no.1.
Ms. Jyoti Chavan, AGP for respondent-State.
Mr. Janak Dwarkadas, Senior Advocate a/w Mr. Ankit Lohia, Ms. Sita Kapadia, Mr. Shashwat Rai, Mr. Akash Loya and Ms. Tvishi Pant i/by Keystone Partners for respondent nos.3 and 4