The Karnataka State Transport department has deemed Ola and Uber’s newly launched bike taxi services as illegal, since they do not have permits to operate as commercial vehicles in Bangalore, reports ET. Bangalore’s Commissioner for Transport & Road Safety, Dr Ramegowda told MediaNama that Ola and Uber have to go to the Road Transport Authority (RTA) of the state to obtain permission in order to operate in the city. In a telephonic conversation, he explained further:
MediaNama: What steps do bike taxis need to take to operate in the city?
Dr Ramegowda: First of all, they have to go before the RTA and make an application, then get permission and unless they get permission, they cannot operate. Everything needs a permit, only then will their service be updated as a taxi. The taxi will (need to) have a yellow board and subsequently the permit, the driver will have a badge for the transportation, and it will be a commercial vehicle, which can operate as a taxi. They have to follow 182A, otherwise it attracts penal provisions. It (operating bike taxis) is a violation of the central Motor Vehicles Act (MVA).
The Section 182A of the MVA states: “Punishment for offences relating to construction and maintenance of vehicles.—Any person who contravenes the provisions of sub-section (3) of section 109, shall be punishable with a fine of one thousand rupees for the first offence and with a fine of five thousand rupees for any subsequent offences.”
MediaNama: But these companies do not have assigned drivers for bike taxis. They’re asking people who own bikes to sign up on the platform…
Dr Ramegowda: (Personally) owned vehicles cannot operate as commercial vehicles. They cannot collect money; aggregators like Ola and Uber cannot canvas and solicit customers, which amounts to commercial activity. More than that they have to register under MVA and follow the cab aggregator rules.
MediaNama: Will the rules for cab aggregators also apply for bike taxis?
Dr Ramegowda: Yes, for all. (The rules for) bike taxis have not been framed. First of all, they (companies) have to apply before the RTA of the concerned district or provision.
MediaNama: So do they need to get a separate license for bike taxis?
Dr Ramegowda: Correct.
MediaNama: Are there plans to come up with a set of rules for bike aggregators?
Dr Ramegowda: Let them apply. If need be, we will do it, including the fixing of price. As of now, they have not applied or registered and the RTA has not permitted them to operate and that amounts to being illegal.
MediaNama: Does ride-sharing also figure in the current bike taxi/cab aggregator rules?
Dr Ramegowda: No, ride-sharing companies need to apply for a license first and then we will consider the service.
A Business Standard report mentioned the government as saying that users of bike taxis wouldn’t be able to claim insurance for injury or damage to vehicles in accidents since the category for those claims did not exist. A Deccan Herald report stated that it had seized some bike taxis, something MediaNama could not ascertain independently. This is also unclear since bike taxis are not exactly commercial vehicles, but personal ones owned by citizens. We’ve written to Ola and Uber for comments and will update this if we hear from them.
MediaNama’s take: The Motor Vehicles Act does not specify rules for ride sharing, cab aggregation or bike taxis, but under the rule of the law, companies are required to get permits for these services. The government is raising valid points with respect to accountability, because owners of personal vehicles are only required to get third party insurance. In case of accidents, it is important to know who will be held liable for injuries to humans, especially pillion riders, and the damage to the vehicles.
We’re trying to find out if bike taxi services extend insurance in case of an accident or other incidents to the pillion rider as well, because accidents are bound to happen and there’s no predicting them.
On a related note, Dr Ramegowda said that the government had received comments from Ola and Uber when MediaNama asked about their applications with respect to the online cab aggregators rules that the government came out with last month. He added that the government would take appropriate decisions and come out with a final notification after 9 March.