Ban on e-rickshaws to stay, rules Delhi High Court

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Tuesday said that the ban on plying of "illegal" e-rickshaws in the national capital would continue till the law is amended to bring them under the ambit of the Motor Vehicles Act, adding that "what is prohibited by law is not permitted in action".

A division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul confirmed that the ban imposed July 31 would stay, holding that the plying of e-rickshaws on the roads of Delhi "was and is unauthorized and illegal."

"High court cannot create a statute, much less permit what is prohibited by a valid statutory provision. We are not creators of law but the interpreters and guardians of law and the rule of law," they said. In July, the bench had banned plying of e-rickshaws on the city roads, saying they were running illegally and were hazardous to other traffic as well as citizens.

Turning down the central government's request to let e-rickshaws ply till they are made lawful by parliament as thousands of people and their livelihood was being affected by the ban, the court Tuesday said: "Can this court permit something which has been expressly prohibited by parliament and, more so, when none of the provisions of the said act are under challenge? We think not."

Denying relief to e-rickshaw operators, the bench said: "In sum, the plying of unregistered e-rickshaws is illegal as per the law as it exists today. "We cannot anticipate the legislative changes that may be brought about or the alterations in the statutory rules that may be introduced in the future. That is for parliament and the central government to consider and act upon. For the present, a mandamus can certainly be issued to ensure that what is prohibited by law is not permitted in action."

Holding that e-rickshaws are plying illegally and can't be allowed to ply on roads, it added: "In some systems of jurisprudence there is a legal maxim which says - what is not prohibited, is permitted. But, there is no authority in law for the proposition that what is validly prohibited can be validly permitted by an order of the court."

The bench dismissed the petition of the central government and the e-rickshaws Owners' Association asking the court to review its ban. The court held that e-rickshaws are not registered, and need to have permits, be covered by an appropriate insurance policy, and need to be driven by people holding driving licences. "This, we have seen, has not been happening" said the bench.

It also said that the fund of Rs.10 lakh that has to be raised by e-rickshaw association "cannot take the place of the statutory requirement of an insurance cover". The court said that the central government also recognized that e-rickshaws are running without any rules and so has evolved a broad framework of guidelines for making rules for e-rickshaws.

The government and the associations had sought that the stay be vacated, saying e-rickshaw operators live on the basis of their earnings and the government was seeking an exemption or interim directions till Oct 15, by when it would be able to bring an amendment in the rules under the Motor Vehicles Act.

The court however had repeatedly asked how could it allow e-rickshaws to ply illegally. Advocate Sugriv Dubey, appearing for social activist Shahnawaz who filed the petition to ban e-rickshaws, had told the bench that due to the e-rickshaws, two major accidents have taken place and two people have died. He said 137 cases have been registered against e-rickshaw drivers for rash driving.

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