Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No curb on number of rickshaws: HC

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday ruled that there could be no curb on
the number of licences issued to cycle-rickshaw pullers as it would be
against their right to earn livelihood and also hamper the
"invaluable" linkage provided by rickshaws.

The Bench headed by Chief Justice A P Shah and comprising Justices S
Ravindra Bhat and S Muralidhar also took exception to the by-law
authorising the police, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and
other agencies to impound rickshaws. It directed the agencies to do
away with any authorisation that was against the law.

But the court refrained from quashing zonal restrictions or the ban on
use of rickshaws on arterial roads. The Bench held that the civic
bodies have the right to take such decisions in greater public

Expressing concern over the manner in which civic authorities and the
police treat cycle-rickshaw pullers, the court said, "It would be
important for public authorities, particularly law enforcement
agencies, to display sensitivity when exercising coercive powers."

The Bench also differed from an earlier High Court verdict which held
that plying rickshaws hurt or offended human dignity, and that the
state should eventually eliminate the trade. The Bench said, "The
right of an individual to ply cycle-rickshaw or other forms of
transport falls within the legitimate exercise of his freedom
guaranteed under Article 19(1) (g)."

The court found no objective criteria that the MCD relied on to fix
the limit of rickshaw licences at 99,000. It noted that no such policy
was framed to limit the number of motorised vehicles.

"The linkage provided by non-motorised transport such as
cycle-rickshaws is invaluable," the court held.

The Bench pointed out that the agencies had, in a way, singled out
cycle-rickshaws, though there are over 60 lakh motor vehicles,
including 32 lakh cars, on Delhi's roads. "The respondents have to
consider all options, including imposing stringent restrictions on use
and movement of private cars, in certain congested areas and also
limit their use," it said. The Bench referred to similar policies in
London, and some other cities abroad, where stiff congestion fee is
levied on private vehicles entering some areas as a deterrent.

The court also quashed the by-law empowering the police to confiscate
and destroy rickshaws without valid licences. "There is no power in
the MCD, much less the Delhi Police, to seize and either sell in
auction or destroy a rickshaw even where it is found to be driven
without a licence, or by a person not having a proper licence," the
court held.

"We are not unmindful of the manner in which these wide powers were
being exercised, with cycle-rickshaws being easy targets for... a
traffic policeman. It is hoped that the Delhi Police will instruct its
personnel to treat rickshaw-pullers with sensitivity."

The court's directives came on PILs filed by two groups — Manushi
Sangthan, and Initiative for Transportation and Development Programmes
— seeking court's intervention in MCD policies taking away the rights
of rickshaw-pullers in an arbitrary manner.

HC: make special task force to smoothen traffic

The High Court pressed the need for an overall agency to look after
traffic situation in the city. The court said the Delhi government,
MCD, DDA and the Delhi Police "shall constitute a special task force
to explore all questions pertaining to traffic". The objective, the
Bench said while hearing the PIL on cycle-rickshaws, is to minimise
congestion, reduce pollution levels of motor vehicles, and ensure
"equitable access to all classes of vehicles, including non-motorised
transport such as bicycles and cycle-rickshaws".

What Court Says
* Sensitivity required on part of civic body, police officials
* If not on cars and other vehicles, why a cap on the number of
licences for rickshaws?
* No objective criteria in MCD's rule fixing number of licences at 99,000
* Police and civic officials have no right to impound rickshaws
* Constitution gives right to ply cycle-rickshaw or other forms of
transport to earn livelihood
* Restriction or ban on use of rickshaws on arterial roads stays

Rickshaws: Earlier orders

JULY 27, 2006: High Court prohibits cycle-rickshaws from all arterial
roads in Delhi; says these roads are meant for "heavy vehicular
traffic, cars and two-wheelers"
* Says rickshaws congesting arterial roads

OCTOBER 2006: High Court issues directs MCD to implement ban on
rickshaws. Also bars issuing of new licences to rickshaws — calls for
review of policy allowing licences for a rickshaw owner, as opposed to
a "rickshaw puller"
* Also objects to plying of rickshaws in Capital on grounds that
rickshaw-pulling is against human dignity and results in exploitation
by influential "mafia"
* Directs all "arterial roads in MCD area be strictly prohibited" for
rickshaws; orders MCD to take strict legal action against violators


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