Motor vehicle taxis that provide transport services for hire or reward are well within the definition of “contract carriage” under the Motor Vehicles Act. A single-judge bench comprising of Justice BV Nagarathna while adjudicating the matter in Ani Technologies Pvt Ltd. V. State of Karnataka & Ors. [WRIT APPEAL No.4010/2019 (MV)] dealt with the legality of two-wheeler motor vehicles functioning as taxis for a mutual reward.
The petitioners in the above case sought a writ of mandamus from the Court in order to take necessary action to permit the registration of bike taxis so as to use them as transport vehicles. The petitioners also prayed for appropriate permits to be granted in respect of contract carriage permits as per the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, and Karnataka Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989. The respondents i.e., the State, were not accepting applications of the petitioners to seek the necessary permits. The petitioner also pointed out the importance, especially in times of a pandemic to include new forms of urban mobility such as e-rickshaws and bike-sharing in order to reduce delays and embrace digital technology online. The respondents stated that there were no rules that had been framed to permit motorcycle taxis as such and thus no permit could be granted to the petitioners.
Upon considering the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act; the Court stated that a motorcycle could be used for hire to carry one passenger as a pillion. Even as per the Central Government Notification such a motorcycle used for hire would, prima facie, come within the definition of contract carriage as defined under sub-section (7) of Section 2 of the MV Act, 1988, wherein a “contract carriage” means “a motor vehicle which carries a passenger or passengers for hire or reward and is engaged under a contract, whether express or implied, for the use of such vehicle as a whole for the carriage of passengers mentioned therein and entered into by a person with a holder of a permit in relation to such vehicle or any person authorized by him in this behalf on a fixed or an agreed rate or sum.” The Court further held that the definition of contract carriage is an inclusive definition rather than an exhaustive one. The very fact that one passenger could be carried on pillion in a motorcycle taxi makes it fall under the purview of “contract carriage.”
The court hence concluded the case and sounded the judgment that “in the instant case, the permit sought is with regard to renting of motor cabs or motorcycles/taxi service for hire or reward and therefore, we find that the applications to be made by the appellant or any other entity similarly situated for seeking such a permission ought to be considered by respondent Nos.1 to 4 having regard to the aforesaid provisions as well as in accordance with law.”