Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news

Uber et al: Delhi HC asks Govt whether taxi operators meet safety regulations

Smrithi Suresh

After OLA’s troubles with the Delhi Government, it is now Uber that has run into choppy waters. Today, a petition seeking the suspension of licences granted to web-based taxi operators such as Uber was heard by the Delhi High Court.

The petition seeks suspension of license until the time these operators comply with the safety norms prescribed under the Radio Taxi (Amended) Scheme of 2006 brought in by the Delhi Government.

The petition, a copy of which is with Bar & Bench, outlines a specific incident to highlight how web-based cab operators were not ‘adhering to prescribed safety norms.’

“The Petitioner booked an Uber cab in New Delhi ….During the course of her journey in the said cab, the battery of her mobile phone got depleted. Unable to reach the Petitioner in the cab and fearing the worst for her safety, her family members and husband tried desperately to contact the Uber Cab Company, to trace the Petitioner’s cab driver’s phone number…

….her family members were shocked to find that no emergency phone number was listed on the taxi operator’s website or even phone based application, and instead Uber required all emergency queries to be routed via an email address, which is universally acknowledged as a slow form of communication better suited for business correspondence. Even more shocking, was the fact that Uber’s own policy appeared to be one of taking no responsibility during times of emergency or crisis, as could be clearly seen on the emergency webpage of their website…

…during the journey, the Petitioner realized that without a functioning cell phone, her safety was compromised and that she had no way whatsoever to send out a distress call in the event of an emergency. Shockingly, there was also no panic button in the cab, and upon asking the cab’s driver, she was informed that Uber does not require its drivers to install embedded GPS transponders (different from cell-phone based GPS which can be disabled) which continuously beam real-time location details to a centralized control room.”

The petition goes on to state that the email sent to the official id was only responded to after an hour, and that the Uber official claimed that he would be unable to contact the cab driver.

Apart from seeking compliance with the safety clauses of Radio Taxi scheme (modified) 2006 and ‘City Taxi Scheme 2015’ of the Delhi Govt, other reliefs sought by the petition include:-

  • Uber to prominently display its emergency phone numbers, control room phone-number and address on their website and phone application and also its registered office address;
  • It should install tamper-proof embedded GPS/GPRS devices in all their vehicles, connected to a centralized control room accessible to police authorities at all times;

Taking cognizance of the shocking state of affairs, in spite of regular reprimands by the Court, the Division Bench of Chief Justice G Rohini & Justice Jayant Nath sought a reply from the Delhi Government regarding steps taken by them to ensure compliance as per orders of the Court. The Government was granted a week’s time to explain its position. The matter will now be heard in October.