The Karnataka High Court today wanted to know the constitutionality of the Karnataka On-Demand Transportation Aggregators Rules (OTTA) during the hearing of a petition by Uber, an app-based cab hailing service provider. “The question I want to know is whether the rules framed by the government are violating the constitutional provisions of the country. The question also is whether the rules are in compliance with the main Act governing transportation,” Justice Raghavendra Chouhan said.
Last month, Uber’s Counsel Sajan Poovayya had submitted that since Uber is a technology platform that connects drivers with passengers, it cannot be regulated under India’s Motor Vehicles Act, which governs taxis and aggregators in the country. The Judge also sought to know why aggregators like Uber had to fulfil the requirement of installing panic buttons in cabs and not other taxi drivers or owners in the state.
“Why this artificial bifurcation? Why should the government impose one of the many conditions of installing panic button in the cabs driven by drivers attached to an aggregator when any other taxi driver or owner in the state offers services without following any of the rules in OTTA?” Justice Chouhan asked.
The judge also observed that the rules framed by the government were not constitutional and could be contested. “Rules in itself are not constitutional. They are subject to contention. They can be anulled as unconstitutional on legal grounds,” he said. The hearing in the matter will continue tomorrow.
Uber had moved the court after the transport department impounded the vehicles for not securing licences under the new norms. It also suspended operation of other taxis, which led to protests by drivers, who have independently filed a petition in court.
The transport department had in April increased the penalty on cab aggregators from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 for allegedly operating their services without obtaining necessary license, despite its repeated warnings.