Uber tells Bombay High Court about its app used by drivers
The transport aggregator's reaction came in response to a PIL
Transport aggregator Uber India has told the Bombay High Court that around 3.5 lakh cab drivers use its app every week in Maharashtra. Each of them earns Rs.7,500 to Rs.15,000 weekly from rides booked through the app launched in 2014.
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) had alleged that Uber did not have a grievance redressal mechanism to resolve complaints against it. The transport aggregator responded by highlighting the steps it had taken to protect its drivers and customers, especially during the Covid pandemic.
The PIL claimed that the complainant, a woman, faced several hurdles when booking a cab ride, her ride experience and subsequent payment of money. She alleged that Uber's mobile app did not allow to satisfactorily place on record the reasons for an unpleasant ride.
In its 332-page affidavit, the company claimed that it had taken numerous steps to ensure safe rides and provided detailed mechanisms to make the mobile application user-friendly.
Uber pointed out that during the pandemic, the Maharashtra government had imposed various restrictions on aggregators due to the lockdown. The company, in fact, implemented the orders to help mitigate the pandemic's impact.
Among the various steps it took, Uber highlighted that it offered free rides to the frontline health workers of the government and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation; undertook vaccination drives for the drivers; facilitated 8000 free online medical consultations for drivers and their families; and facilitated micro-loans for the drivers.
In addition, it gave grants to the drivers during the lockdown and arranged for/distributed approximately 52,346 PPE kits to the drivers.
It further said that it had complied with the statutory regime put in place by the Central government to the Motor Vehicles Act, thereby mandating obtaining a license for carrying on the business. Uber also contended that the Maharashtra government had not issued any rules under the Act and there was no clarity on the conditions for granting of licenses.
It pointed out that other aggregators providing services similar to Uber had also not obtained any such license.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Transport Commissioner of the Maharashtra government also filed an affidavit stating that the term 'aggregator' was introduced only in 2019. So prior to that, Uber was not required to obtain any license except under the Maharashtra City Taxi Rules, which stood suspended.
The State's affidavit pointed out that while its guidelines for aggregators were in the process of being finalized, the rules issued by the Centre were applicable to all aggregators, including Uber. Moreover, Uber had never applied seeking a license as an aggregator as per the Act.