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Delhi Govt again rejects radio taxi licenses of Uber, Ola & TaxiForSure

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The Delhi Government has rejected the applications for licence by Uber, Ola and TaxiForSure, reports PTI. The Government mentions it rejected the filings as the cab aggregators had not complied with the ban imposed in December.

Apparently in a bid to impose the ban, the traffic cops in Delhi have been using the Uber app to call cabs, and when it comes, they impound it. As of now, the Delhi police have allegedly impounded over 150 cars in the last 24 hours. The transportation minister said several such teams had formed to get unlicensed cabs off the road.

Previously in February, the Delhi government transport department had started a consultation with the Centre to block the IP address of Uber and shut down its operations in the country if it did not get a radio taxi licence to ply. The whole saga began following an alleged rape of a 27-year old woman by one of the Uber drivers in December, when the Delhi Government considered cancelling the permission of Uber and scrutinizing the permits of all private taxi services.

The Delhi transport department had then banned Uber the same month, and later brought them under the radio taxi license. Uber however resumed operations in Delhi in January, after applying for a radio taxi license, which has now been rejected.

Interestingly, in April the Indian government ruled out banning cab-hailing apps like Uber and Ola, but said it would impose conditions to make their operations safer. This was after the the Delhi government had asked the Ministry of Communications & IT to block the online taxi booking apps of Uber and Ola in the city in March. Subsequently, ISPs in Delhi were to write to the Department of Telecom (DoT) of their inability to block websites or apps of Uber and Ola, due to the platforms using SSL encryption.

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Continuing problems: Note that earlier this week another Uber driver allegedly misbehaved with a female passenger in Gurgaon, and apparently forcibly tried to kiss her. The passenger complained to Uber, to which the company replied to say that they’ve “a zero tolerance policy for this behaviour” and that they were “following up with Vinod (the driver) appropriately, and immediately.”

Additionally, such incidents involving Uber drivers are not restricted to India. Last month, a Uber driver was accused of sexual assault in Toronto, Canada, while similar incidents have been reported in Boston, US as well. Uber has been taking steps to avoid such problems, in February, the company hired First Advantage, a service which runs background checks, to bring in additional layers of screening over and above its standard transport licensing process which includes address verification, a local criminal court search, and a national criminal database search.

Aggregator responsibility & liability:

Since Uber is an aggregator (Intermediary), it is somewhat protected by Section 79 of the IT Act, 2008. It proffers safe harbor to Intermediaries, as long as they act on complaints and do not knowingly allow the usage of their platform to break the law. So, legally Uber seems to be on safe ground, however as we have pointed out earlier there is a need for better understanding of the responsibility, accountability and liability of platforms, marketplaces and aggregators. There’s no doubt that online aggregators and marketplaces are good for consumers and competition. But then who is accountable, when things get screwed up? And what about the liability of these platforms?

It’s worth noting that earlier this year Uber had asked a US district court to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Delhi rape victim for negligence & fraud, saying that it should not be held legally responsible for its driver’s act.

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