Ambiguity and legal void

The Motor Vehicles Act (MVA), 1988, says “contract carriage” means a motor vehicle which carries a passenger or passengers for hire and is engaged under a contract entered into by a person.

The vehicle can carry passengers “from one point to another, and in either case, without stopping to pick up or set down passengers not included in the contract anywhere
during the journey”.

Car-pooling is regulated by permit conditions given to the drivers and not by the licence given to the companies. The app-based companies themselves do not work under any such permit. Legal experts say till the Karnataka High Court stays several provisions of the On-Demand Transport Technology Aggregators Rules, 2016, it will be difficult to enforce rules on the companies.

“Both the companies have got aggregator licence. Since many rules under the law have been stayed, there is no law that governs them as of now,” says a lawyer who is following the case closely. In addition to this, the MVA allows “separate fares charged for passengers.” Officials say the companies are banking on this “ambiguity” when they argue that car-pooling is legal.
“With the companies themselves not coming under permit, we are left to defend ourselves. I brought this to the notice of the transport authorities,” says Tanveer Pasha, leader of a union of Ola and Uber drivers.

Transport Commissioner M K Aiyappa has said that the department was not against car-pooling but wants the companies to follow the rules. “The companies have made a presentation and we have forwarded the same to the government, which will take a call on this.”

When asked about the consequences for companies if they fail to get the government’s nod for pooling before the January 17 deadline, Joint Commissioner for Transport J Gnanendra, who led the team that impounded 32 cars last week, says, “It is our job to enforce legal provisions. We will act according to the commissioner’s orders.”

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