A Telangana-based private company has approached the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the Transport Commissioner in Tamil Nadu to consider a representation made by it on January 9, seeking permission for its smartphone-based mobile application Rapido, which encourages the practice of bike-sharing across the country.
Roppen Transportation Services Private Limited of Hyderabad has also urged the court to quash letters written by the Commissioner of Police, Greater Chennai, against it to Google LLC, Apple India Private Limited and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), that serves as the Centre’s nodal agency for cyber security-related incidents.
The company claimed that the letters had led to the removal of its mobile app from app stores, thereby affecting close to 3.4 lakh users of the application in Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other States. It contended that the police had no authority to take such unilateral action and treat the company as it if was committing some offence.
When the writ petition was listed for admission before Justice G. Jayachandran on Wednesday, senior counsel Satish Parasaran put forth his arguments on behalf of the company and pressed for interim orders.
However, a government counsel sought time for the appearance of Advocate General Vijay Narayan and hence the hearing was adjourned to Thursday.
Explaining its business model, the company, in its affidavit, stated that it simply acts as an intermediary between private two-wheeler owners, travelling between pre-determined locations, to offer their empty pillion seats to people who may also be travelling on the same route. It claimed to be not collecting any commission or service charge from any of the riders.
The two-wheeler owners alone were allowed to charge the pillion riders and that too merely towards defraying the fuel expenses and not to make profits.
The innovative business model would lead to environmental and health benefits, besides reducing traffic congestion, bringing down the cost of maintenance of roads, conserving fuel and lessening vehicle parking problems, it said.
The company also asserted that there was no necessity, under any law in force at present, to obtain a permit from any statutory authority for the owner of a private two-wheeler to pick and drop a pillion rider from one location to another, purely on their own will and volition. Therefore, interference by the police was unnecessary and uncalled for, it claimed.
Despite the absence of any regulation, the company claimed to have put stringent norms in place to verify the background and vehicle ownership details of registered users of the mobile app. It also said users were required to undergo a mandatory training programme to learn safe riding practices and behavioural skills.
It had been made mandatory for both riders to wear helmets, desist from exceeding speed limits and ensure that the vehicles were in good condition.
The company also claimed to be providing insurance to the riders at its own cost and a round-the-clock SOS service to attend to emergencies.
The petitioner company further said that though a central notification permits classification of two-wheelers into transport as well as non-transport vehicles, in Tamil Nadu alone, all two-wheelers were considered as non-transport vehicles only and therefore the concept of voluntary bike-sharing was being misunderstood as a commercial transport activity.