The rule, however, was not made applicable for those who already had valid permits.
Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Monday termed a Maharashtra government direction, which was issued in 2016, to the Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) to make knowledge of Marathi a pre-condition for those applying for new auto-rickshaw permits “prima facie not correct”.
While upholding the contentions of the petitioners that permit owners were not necessarily the drivers, the court said such a pre-condition was wrong.
A division bench of Justice A.S. Oka and Justice Anuja Prabhudessai was hearing a writ petition filed by the Mira Bhayandar Republican Rickshaw Chalak Malak Union and several other such organisations challenging the circular.
The circular had stipulated that from November 1, 2016 permits for new auto-rickshaws would be given only to those applicants who could speak Marathi. The rule, however, was not made applicable for those who already had valid permits.
The advocate for the petitioners, Suhas Deokar, argued that imposing such a condition while issuing badges to auto-rickshaw drivers was understandable but not while issuing permits because in some cases the permit is taken by the owner of the auto-rickshaw who then rents it out to drivers.
Advocate Vishal Thadani, appearing for the state, said the circular only demands a basic knowledge of Marathi and that the above rule was part of the circular that required all those applying for new auto rickshaw permits to have some knowledge of the local language and to have studied at least up to class 8. Incidentally, a previous bench of Justice V.M. Kanade and Justice Nutan Sardessai, which had heard the case last year, had pointed out that there was nothing wrong in the condition put in the circular. “Prima facie, in our view, the said condition is not unreasonable because a driver of a public vehicle is expected to know the regional language, so that he can understand the direction given by the commuters. Number of complaints have been received from public regarding behaviour of rickshaw drivers. We therefore propose to expand the scope of this writ petition and would like the transport commissioner to inform us as to what steps they have taken for redressal of grievances of the commuters,” the bench had observed.