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To operate in the State of Maharashtra, Uber and other unlicensed aggregators to apply for a license: Bombay High Court

A decision directing UBER and other transportation aggregators that have not secured a license under Section 93(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act to apply for the license before March 16, 2022, or they would be unable to function in the state of Maharashtra was pronounced by the Bombay High Court through a Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Vinay Joshi in the case of Savino R. Crasto v. Union of India (PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION (L) NO. 9775 OF 2020)

FACTS OF THE CASE:

One of the petitions in the filed Public Interest Litigation was for respondents 1 and 2 to guarantee the application of the Motor Vehicle Aggregator Guidelines-2020. In this case, Uber (Respondent 3) was a Transportation Aggregator.

Section 93(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 obliged aggregators to get a license from such authority and subject to such conditions as the State Government may establish. The proviso said that when awarding licenses, the State Government may adopt any guidelines established by the Centre. Subsection 2 of Section 93, on the other hand, related to topics that may be added as licensing requirements.

JUDGEMENT:

According to the High Court, 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 completely inappropriate for the State of Maharashtra (respondent 2) to allow such person to continue as an aggregator without obtaining such a license.

The Bench added that, while the Maharashtra Regulation of Aggregators Rules 2021 are still in the draught stage, until such time as the said draught rules are finalized for compliance, the 2020 Guidelines framed by the Centre would hold the field, and anyone wishing to operate as an aggregator must adhere to the regulatory framework brought about by such guidelines.

Furthermore, the Court was aware that limiting UBER’s operations would result in significant prejudice and damage to the passengers who utilize its services. As a result, the High Court gave UBER and other unlicensed aggregators the option to seek for licenses as required by the relevant clause. Finally, the Bench directed the State Government’s Transport Department to issue an appropriate notification in the Official Gazette as soon as possible and no later than March 9, 2022, empowering each and every Regional Transport Authority in Maharashtra to act as the Licensing Authority for the grant of license under sub-section (1) of Section 93 of the Act.

All operators were directed to apply for a license by March 16, 2022, and if the application is not received by that date, the unlicensed aggregator would be barred from operating in the state of Maharashtra.

JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY REETI SHETTY

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