The Delhi High Court today agreed to hear tomorrow a plea seeking review of its order banning e-rickshaws on the roads in the national capital. The petition was mentioned before a bench of justices B D Ahmed and S Mridul by advocate R K Kapoor, appearing on behalf of Battery Rickshaw Welfare Association. While the court agreed to hear the matter, it observed that there was a need to regulate the plying of e-rickshaws.
"You are very well aware of the traffic regulations. Until and unless it (e-rickshaws) is regulated, how can it be permitted?" the bench queried. Kapoor sought urgent hearing of the matter saying an advisory has been issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to the chief secretaries of all the state governments and Union territories regarding regulation of electric motor propelled three–wheeled vehicles (e-rickshaws and ecarts).
He contended that this advisory has not been brought to the attention of the court. The review petition also contended that lakhs of families depend upon e-rickshaws for their livelihood "and in the interest of justice, this court may review/modify the order dated July 31". There are around 70,000 battery-operated rickshaws plying on roads in the national capital. The association pleaded that since the ministry proposes to amend the Motor Vehicles Act and the rules framed there under as well as issue an advisory for regulating such e-rickshaws, they may be permitted to operate in the meantime subject to the compliance of any regulations which may be issued by the Delhi traffic police or local administration.
The petition also sought directions to the authorities to act upon the ministry's advisory which "specifically provides that in order to give vehicles for last mile connectivity to the commuters and livelihood to manually operated three- wheeled rickshaws and carts, it was decided to facilitate their replacement with electric motor powered three-wheeled rickshaws and carts". The high court on July 31 had ordered a ban on plying of e-rickshaws in the national capital saying they are illegally running on Delhi roads and "prima facie a hazard to other traffic as well citizens".
The high court's directions had come on a petition filed by social worker Shanawaz Khan alleging that e-rickshaws, which are operated with power output of 650 to 850 watt and are designed to ferry only four people, including the driver, were carrying more than eight people at a time, endangering their lives. In its review plea, the Association said, "Merely because the respondent authorities have not been able to take strict action or frame guidelines, should not lead to the violation of the right to livelihood of the owners of the e-rickshaws, as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India." "The owners of the e-rickshaws have a reasonable expectation that they would be regulated and they are willing to be regulated," the petition said.
Earlier, advocate Zubeda Begum, who appeared for Delhi government, had submitted that as per a letter received from Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the Centre was proposing to amend the Motor Vehicles Act to the extent that it will take e-rickshaws out of the ambit of the legislation. "Local bodies will then frame rules to regulate the e-rickshaws," she had told the court. While the bench refused to comment on the ministry's proposed move, it had observed that in the present situation "plying of e-rickshaws is illegal".
It had also taken note of news reports of the death of a three-year-old boy and the injuries suffered by his mother as a result of an accident involving an erickshaw. The bench has listed the main matter for further hearing on August 14. The high court had given a week's time to Delhi government to come up with answers regarding the uncontrolled plying of e-rickshaws and what it intended to do about it. Earlier, the high court had asked the Delhi government to apprise it of any policy decisions taken for regulating e-rickshaws which ply without any license or number plates.