The estimated one lakh e-rickshaws plying in the capital are likely to face a police crackdown from Friday after the Delhi high court banned them, pending regulations.
The court said on Thursday that the e-rickshaws posed a “hazard to other traffic on the roads and citizens”. A division bench of Justice B D Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul took the decision after Delhi’s transport department admitted that under the law, e-rickshaws were illegal. Tuesday’s accident in which a rashly driven e-rickshaw cut short the life of a three-year-old in east Delhi was a grim reminder to the court of the threat to road users.
Both the transport department of Delhi government and the cops have promised action. Delhi Police says it will impound the vehicles and also book them under various sections of IPC. Drives will be undertaken in areas where these are present in large numbers. This could somewhat inconvenience commuters who have become accustomed to e-rickshaws, though in the long run they will return under new regulations.
This eco-friendly mode of transport, though unregulated and unsafe, has become popular because it’s cheap, goes over short distances and provides last-mile connectivity, particularly at Metro stations. Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari had last month given the e-rickshaw a new lease of life by promising to take them out of the ambit of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, ruled out quality testing and handed over the job of regulating them to the corporations and cops.
During a brief hearing on Thursday, standing counsel Zubeda Begum informed the HC that according to a letter received from the ministry of road transport and highways, the Centre had proposed to amend the MV Act and leave the job of regulating the e-rickshaws to the local authorities.
Though the bench didn’t comment on the ministry’s proposed move, it had little hesitation in banning the vehicles for now, pointing out how “there is no specific load or number of passengers that they are required to carry.”
“You (Delhi government) stop them, in the meantime, till a law is framed to regulate them. Why allow somebody to continuously take the law in their hands? These e-rickshaws don’t have insurance or registration. Even the drivers don’t have driving licences. There is no bar on the number of passengers they can carry,” the bench observed.
“As far as the present situation is concerned, the plying of e-rickshaws is illegal. Delhi government must ban plying of e-rickshaws without fail. Unregulated plying of these vehicles on roads of Delhi prima facie is hazardous to other traffic on the road as well as to citizens,” it noted.
HC has been hearing a petition filed by social worker Shanawaz Khan, alleging that e-rickshaws flout rules. While they operate on a power output of 650-850 watts and are designed to ferry only four people, they routinely carry up to 8-10 persons, endangering lives, Khan has argued.
On July 23, the court had given the Delhi government a week’s time to come up with a solution on how to regulate these vehicles. The deadline came after it tolerated months of the buck being passed between several authorities — from the police and state government to municipal corporations. Each of them pleaded innocence when the court questioned them on regulating e-rickshaws and maintained that it wasn’t their job to control them. The court had rejected their argument that the transport department would frame a policy for regulating the operation of e-rickshaws
Meanwhile, the traffic police also informed the court that the uncontrolled plying of e-rickshaws has led to more than 26 accidents, in which two passengers had lost their lives. Its unregulated movement tends to cause traffic problems and a nuisance on the roads, it added.
The HC will next take up the matter on August 14.