The Delhi High Court on Thursday came down heavily on app-based cab service providers like Ola and Uber, setting August 22 as the deadline to comply with the government-fixed rates.
The move will put to end the practice adopted by taxi aggregators to charge surge pricing from passengers. Come August 22 and such entities and other taxi operators will not be able to charge passengers more than the government rates.
The deadline was fixed after Uber told Justice Manmohan that it needs 10 days to make changes to its software to ensure passengers are not charged more than the rates stipulated by the Delhi government in June 2013.
Ola told the court it has already stopped charging passengers more than the notified rates.
The court was hearing a slew of petitions filed by an association of radio taxi operators and Ola. The radio taxi operators association alleged that app-based cab service providers like Ola and Uber are overcharging customers while Ola accused Uber of not complying with the court orders.
According to the prescribed rates, fare for Economy Radio Taxi is Rs 12.50 per km, while it is Rs 14 per km for non-AC black and yellow top taxi and Rs 16 per km for AC black and yellow top taxi.
The notified fare of Radio Taxi cabs (distinguished by an LCD board on roof top displaying 'Radio Taxi') is Rs 23 per km. Additional night charge (25 per cent of the fare) is applicable between 11 pm and 5 am.
While addressing the issue of surge pricing, the court observed that while taxi aggregators like Ola and Uber reduce the pressure on public transport, "a uniform policy must be devised" for regulating them.
It directed a special committee, set up by the Centre to examine all issues related to existing permits given to taxis and cab aggregators, to also include one senior official each from the Ministry of Information Technology, Central Pollution Control Board and Delhi Traffic Police apart from obtaining advise of a transport expert from Niti Aayog.
The direction came after central government standing counsel Manish Mohan and Kirtimaan Singh submitted that the Ministry of Transport had set up the panel on May 25, 2016 to address licence issues of taxis and aggregators across India.
The Delhi government has also drafted a policy under which cab companies will be bound to charge fares prescribed by the Transport Department.
Delhi Transport Minister Satyendar Jain said yesterday that the policy will soon be put for public's suggestions for 15-30 days and then sent to the Lt Governor for his approval.
As per the new policy, cab aggregators will not be allowed surge pricing and they will have to charge fares only through meters. The companies will also have to install Global Positioning System (GPS) in taxis being operated under their banner in view of safety of passengers especially women.
"The policy will be exclusively for all the app-based taxis giving their services in Delhi. We will fix fares for them as we have done in the case of radio, economy cabs and yellow-black taxis.
"They can charge minimal fares, but they cannot charge more than the fares prescribed by the Transport Department. All app-based taxi services will be regulated through this policy," the transport minister said.
Once the new rules are laid down, app-based cab companies will be bound to follow the same, he said.
(With PTI inputs)