Owing to the steep increase in the instances of sexual harassment of women by cab drivers, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has directed the Centre to consider framing a law for regulating the app-based transport service providers like Uber and Ola for ensuring the safety of women commuters. This would hopefully curb the rise of instances of sexual harassment being faced by women commuters.
The issue of the safety of women passengers in app-based cab services arose during the hearing of a matter concerning safety and security of women.
The Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court which issued the direction is of the opinion that the government should take immediate action to amend the existing law for regulating the internet-based service providers and making them accountable.
It was also proposed that a safety mechanism such as a GPS-linked panic button be installed in such app-based cabs. These safety precautions will be of immense support to ensure the safety and comfort of women commuters. A mechanism is required to be put in place for regulating the app based cab services. It was also pointed out that there are foreign-based app based cab services who are unwilling to come within the jurisdiction of India.
It will be essential to understand the requirement for proposing framing a law for governing the app-based cab services. The app-based cab services have become indispensable in today’s world owing to the comfort of booking a cab merely at the click of a button making them the preferred choice for travel by commuters of all age groups. However, there several concerns as well which need to be addressed seriously, the foremost being the safety and security of commuters, particularly for women. The law will also place greater responsibility on service providers to do better security audits of drivers. There are also concerns about the drivers not following the GPS maps which result in faulty and improper billing.
The app-based cab operators are not covered under the Motor Vehicle Act given that they claim themselves to be intermediaries which are unable to be regulated. The problem is account of such companies not carrying out background checks on their drivers, making the women commuters feel unsafe while travelling in cabs. The Centre, however, said that the existing law has to be amended to bring such companies under regulation.
Now with the Parliament approving the amendments to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Government will be able to frame rules for regulating cab aggregators. On account of such proposal, the aggregators may find it difficult to defraud commuters by applying surcharges on fares during peak hours or in times of adversity such as a bus or auto strike or in times of heavy rain.
Presently, many states lack norms standards to regulate the functioning of app-based cab services. The state transport department issue the taxi permits, accordingly every state has different guidelines which could include rate of fare, the number of passengers travelling in a vehicle, among others.
While the Centre has amended the law governing motor vehicles, it is now the states who will be required to frame their own rules to regulate their functioning. The Motor Vehicle Bill passed has even proposed that the violation of licensing conditions by cab aggregators could lead to penalty between INR 25,000 and INR 1 lakh. Further, given that cab aggregators will also be required to comply with the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000.