The Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court that it was pertinent to regulate the operations of app-based cab operators such as Ola and Uber in order to foil their “predatory”, “monopolistic” and “exploitative” business tactics.
In an affidavit filed in the court to defend its City Taxi Rules 2017 that have been challenged by some drivers of Ola and Uber, the state government alleged that the only reason the app-based cab operators were opposing the new rules was that they wished for a free reign.
The government said the implementation of its new rules was crucial to bring about a level playing field for all cab operators in Mumbai, and to ensure better services to the commuters.
In June, some drivers from Ola and Uber had approached the high court challenging the new rules on the ground that the imposed terms made it unnecessarily difficult for them to get licences.
The petitioners’ main complaint is that the new rules do not allow app-based cabs to ply on national tourist permits.
Instead, it makes it mandatory for them to apply for new local permits if they wish to continue operations within the city limits.
The existing permits restrict such cabs within the city of their registration, the petitioner said.
Also, to obtain the local permits, the petitioners claimed, they will have to shell out more than 10 times of what the drivers of black and yellow taxis have to pay.
However, the government maintained that Ola and Uber have been flouting the Regional transport Authority’s rules on licensing until now by plying intra-city as hail taxis on tourist vehicle permits.
According to the state, it is mandatory for all contract carriage vehicles or hail taxis with valid permits to run on CNG, LPG, or petrol since these are clean fuels.
In this case, since Ola and Uber cabs operate on tourist permits, some vehicles run on diesel too. All hail cabs must also have a metered fare structure and hence, the petitioners’ surge price fare structure is not only exploitative, but also illegal, the state informed a bench led by Justice Shantanu Kemkar.
“The petitioners are opposing the new rules because they do not wish to be regulated. They want an unfettered playing field to further their monetary benefits and exploit commuters. It is pertinent to note that during peak hours, their fares are almost two or three times the normal fare,” the affidavit reads.
“The petitioners (Ola, Uber) have predatory tactics, they aspire for a monopoly in the market and want to wipe out competition including the common men who drive the yellow and black taxis. Such tactics cannot be permitted by a welfare state like Maharashtra,” the affidavit reads.
The state has also said that merely because Ola, and Uber are registered as mobile app based technology companies, they can’t be beyond the purview of the state’s transport rules.
“Their app that fixes routes, decided fares, is neither regulated, nor subject to any scrutiny,” the affidavit reads.
The government’s counsel advocate GW Mattos also told bench that the committee appointed earlier this year to specifically look into fare fixation for such cabs submitted its report before the state on Monday and sought time till November 21 to place the state’s response on the same before the high court.
While granting the state time, the bench ordered that the state refrain from taking any coercive action against Ola and Uber until then.