New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday fixed September 9 to pass its order on whether to permit plying of erickshaws in the national capital till rules are framed to regulate them under the Motor Vehicles Act.
"List for order on next to next Tuesday (September 9)," a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul said.
The court fixed the matter for order after the counsel for all the concerned parties including the Centre, Battery Rickshaw Welfare Association and petitioner Shanawaz Khan, on whose plea plying of erickshaws was banned, concluded their arguments.
While seeking a direction to vacate the court's July 31 order, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Pinky Anand, for the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, told the court that they have submitted the draft rules before the Law Ministry.
ASG Anand, along with advocates Balendu Shekhar and S N Parashar, sought that erickshwas be allowed to ply till October 15, saying by that time they will be able to bring an amendment in the rules.
The Centre also placed before the court its proposal of the directions it is seeking from the court to allow plying of erickshaws on city roads.
"The central government is in the process of formulating rules for erickshaws. The current rules did not contemplate covering erickshaws.
"Therefore, till such time as appropriate rules are framed, in the interests of justice and fundamental right to life and liberty of the erickshaws pullers, the operation of the erickshaws be allowed," ASG Anand said.
"Issue an identity Card-Cum-Temporary permission to drive erickshaws in National Capital Territory of Delhi (valid till October 15)," the Centre's proposal states.
However, the petitioner, social activist Shanawaz Khan's counsel Sugrive Dubey said "no person without valid licence be allowed to ply erickshaws".
In three months, around two hundred accident cases, including two fatalities, have been registered, advocate Dubey said, adding that they should not be allowed to ply as they are "high risk vehicles".
During the proceedings, the court also took note of the Traffic Police's report, which was produced by advocate Dubey, and said "if somebody has already done their exercise why don't you (Centre and Delhi government) put it in place?
"It's a serious issue. You should follow it," the judge said while going through the Traffic Police report.
Raising serious concerns over the accidents involving erickshaws, the Traffic Police, in an affidavit, had said unregulated operation of the battery-operated vehicles tends to cause traffic problems on the roads.
It had said passengers of erickshaws are not insured for injury or death as these vehicles do not have insurance.
It had also said that as the operation of erickshaws is not regulated under the Motor Vehicles Act (MVA), police are unable to prosecute the drivers.
The Traffic Police had also said erickshaws should be properly registered in accordance with the MVA and there should be a zoning system and colour coding for streamlining their operation.
The Traffic Police's response had come on a plea seeking a ban on erickshaws, contending they had no registration numbers and the vehicles were putting passengers at risk since the latter cannot claim insurance in case of an accident.
The Centre in its proposal has also said that regarding safety norms to ensure public safety, "Delhi Police should ensure that no more than four passengers and total baggage of 50 kg are allowed on erickshaws".
"The Erickshaws Welfare Association to create a corpus of Rs 10 lakh to cover cases of any grevious hurt or fatal incident. In case of grevious hurt Rs 25,000 and in the event of death Rs one lakh," the proposal said, adding the Centre may give an appropriate direction for the operation of corpus.
It further said the State Transport Department will open centres all over Delhi to consider grant of commercial driving license to erickshaws operators by opening special windows in all 13 zonal authorities subject to fulfilling of the requisite conditions.
"All the field staff will be directed to work overtime to accomplish the job," the ASG said.
Yesterday, the court had asked the Transport Ministry to submit the proposal after observing that as per the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, the hands of the court are tied in respect of allowing erickshaws to ply.
The court had on August 21 refused to pass any interim order to permit their operation saying "we have to be clear about what we are doing, can't do it just like that".
The court had on July 31 banned plying of erickshaws on city roads on the plea of Shanawaz Khan who has alleged that these vehicles which are designed to ferry only four people including the driver, carry more than eight people at a time, endangering their lives.
While banning them, the court had observed that erickshaws are illegally running on Delhi roads and "prima facie a hazard to other traffic as well citizens".
Thereafter, Battery Rickshaw Welfare Association sought a review of the high court's order, saying erickshaws be allowed to ply on the basis of interim guidelines submitted by the Transport Ministry.