SC to Centre: How can app-based transport services be regulated??
The court may also answer the question of whether companies like Uber and Ola are to be held accountable for the actions of their drivers. Photograph: (AFP)
The Supreme Court has asked the Centre how app-based transport services like Uber, Ola, and redBus can be regulated.
The court was responding to a petition seeking compensation for rape victims. (While the petitioner had asked for compensation, it was the court which asked why more guarantees of women's safety could not be put in place.)
The petitioner had asked that all public transport vehicles be fitted with GPS systems, high-security registration plates, and that they maintain logbooks.
The petitioner had also asked that the government encourage the hiring of more women drivers.
The court will now hear the petition on December 7.
Taxi aggregators in India (and elsewhere) have for some time now said that the only technology they provide is to help drivers and passengers connect with each other.
And that while they might terminate or suspend the services of a driver who has done something illegal -- they themselves cannot be held liable.
That is why their drivers are often referred to as "driver partners".
This is a very wide grey zone -- and one that the petition might help find answers to.
If, say, a person is assaulted in a taxi, who is to be held accountable? Just the driver or also the company that provided his services?
The courts have asked a similar question earlier.
The Delhi High Court had last year in February asked the government and police to check if all cab drivers in the city had valid licences.
This was after a foreign tourist had been molested by a taxi driver.
"If someone comes to Delhi from another country and hires a taxi and if a driver commits a crime, who will be held responsible?" the court had asked then.