Restricting the Age of Cabs is Illegal

The Transport Department of Delhi restricts the age of 35,000 taxis under the City Taxi Scheme, 2015 to 8 years which is illegal, unconstitutional, arbitrary and discriminatory.

The life and livelihood of a cab driver revolves around his car which he holds on to dearly. He takes care of it like a baby for being his means of livelihood. Unlike us, his car is not only a means of transport for him but she is his means of survival and sustenance.

For a lower-middle-class household, buying a new car to be used as a cab can be a significant financial burden. The cost of the car itself, plus insurance, maintenance, fuel, and licensing fees can quickly add up, and the income from driving the cab may not be enough to cover these expenses.

One day, he gets to learn that his permit to drive his cab on the roads is only valid for a period of 8 years, whereas his brother who drives a black & yellow (kaali-peeli) taxi can can ride it for 15 years. This news that he will not be able to ply his cab in Delhi haunts him due to this arbitrary rule of setting the age limit of economy radio taxis at 8 years.

The City Taxi Scheme, 2015 (“CTS”) of the Transport Department, drafted by the State Transport Authority (STA) made under the powers conferred with the State Government under Section 93, 94, and 96 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, came into force overriding the effect of the Radio Taxi Scheme, 2006 and the Economy Radio Taxi Scheme, 2010.

This provision of granting the permit for only 8 years came vide Clause III, sub-clause 12 of the City Taxi Scheme, 2015 wherein it was arbitrarily laid down that:

Taxi should be replaced on completion of eight years with a new Taxi or by conversion of existing one, either by purchase or through an agreement with individual taxi permit holders.

This Scheme suffers from multiple grave and critical laches that compels an individual’s sense and begs the question as to what Legislations or Laws did the STA refer to while drafting the Scheme and its underlying provisions. Take a look below:

  1. The CTS, not having been published in the gazette, has no force of law. It is for this reason that the likes of Ola and Uber continue to ply without obtaining aggregator license. No effort has been made in the last 8 years to bring them under CTS by notifying it.
  2. Section 81(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 (“MVA,”) stipulates that any such permit issued or renewed shall be valid for 5 years. It is because of this stipulation that the permits are issued or renewed for 5 years at a time for autorickshaws, tourist cabs, black and yellow cabs, and other forms of vehicles. For City Taxis also, the permits are also rightly issued for 5 years. However, instead of renewing the permits for another 5 years for city taxis, it is renewed for 3 years, thereby violating the provisions of Section 81(1) of the MVA.
  3. A Petrol/CNG vehicle is valid to be driven on the roads of Delhi/NCR for 15 years by the order of the NGT. For the transport department to stipulate the age limit which is less than the age limit ordered by the NGT amounts to undermining the order and authority of the NGT.
  4. CTS has admittedly been framed under sections 93, 95 and 96 of the MVA. These 3 sections do not empower the transport department to fix the age of vehicles.
  5. There is not even a whisper in the MVA and the rules made thereunder or any order from any court that give the transport department the power or the authority to fix the age limit of any category of vehicles. All
  6. All autorickshaws, black and yellow taxis, tourist taxis and other forms of vehicles are permitted to ply until the age of 15 years. In the case of city taxis, therefore, any such act of the transport department to fix the age limit is arbitrary and violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
  7. When other transport vehicles such as autorickshaws, gramin sewa, black and yellow taxis and tourist taxis can ply for 15 years, limiting the age of taxis under the CTS is discriminatory and violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
  8. Fixing the age limit of vehicles is causing taking the vehicles off the road, thus jeopardising the livelihood of thousands of drivers which is a violation of Articles 19(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India.
  9. When a provision of fitness under section 56 exists, there is no rationale or rhyme and reason for you to fix the age limit of a category of vehicles.
  10. No rationale or reason for fixing age limit has been given. No study was conducted. It amounts to pulling the rabbit out of a hat arbitrarily.
  11. The conversion of taxis to private vehicles which cause similar pollution and other damages is not benefitting the people in he least.

In April 2023, we filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court bearing no. WP(C) No. 4889 of 2023 to challenge the government’s decision to limit the age of vehicles. Justice Ohri heard the matter and observed that it was an important issue that could be resolved more quickly by the Commissioner of Transport taking a decision directly, rather than through a court order. Accordingly, he directed the Commissioner to treat the petition as a representation and hold a meeting with us on April 25, 2023, to discuss the matter. He also ordered the Commissioner to issue a speaking order, which is a reasoned order.

In accordance with the court’s order, a meeting was held with the Special Commissioner of Transport and we submitted written arguments. The matter of issuing a speaking order was reserved. We later learned from officials that the matter had been escalated to the Chief Secretary.

As of the writing of this blog on May 18, 2023, we have not received the order and we are filing a contempt petition against the Commissioner of Transport in a day or two.

We are confident that we are taking a lawful stand and that the government is on the wrong side of the law. Therefore, we believe that the government will use the opportunity provided by the court to correct its illegal action.

We will continue to update our blog on the progress of this case.

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