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Supreme Court bats for poor rickshaw pullers

J. Venkatesan
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“Why apply brakes on rickshaws, not on killer cars?”

“YOU CANNOT ROB A POOR MAN OF HIS LIVELIHOOD”:A rickshaw puller out earning his livelihood in Delhi.PHOTO: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR
“YOU CANNOT ROB A POOR MAN OF HIS LIVELIHOOD”:A rickshaw puller out earning his livelihood in Delhi.PHOTO: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a Delhi High Court order holding that municipal authorities could not cap the number of licences for cycle rickshaws as putting any such restriction or fixing a ceiling would amount to denial of the people's basic right to earn a livelihood.

A Bench of Justice G. S. Singhvi and Justice S. J. Mukhopadhyaya, dismissing an appeal filed by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi against the Delhi High Court order, said that making such provisions in 2007 (putting a cap of 99,000 on the number of rickshaws in the Capital, levying fines of Rs.5 to 50, etc.) in municipal by-laws would amount to abolition of rickshaws which were not only a source of bread and butter for the poor but also cheap transport for the common man.

The Court expressed concern over the plight of poor rickshaw pullers and questioned the MCD for bringing the controversial rules. On the contrary, it said, no law was being made to discourage reckless violations of the Motor Vehicles Act and rampant killing of people by drunken driving.

Justice Singhvi said, “The mind-set of the officers is….how can rickshaw pullers have a right under the Constitution! You (authorities) are not prepared to scrap cars, impound their licences and put the violator behind bars for at least ten years for drunken driving and killing people. Just because a person (rickshaw puller) is weak and meek does not mean he has no right. In your (MCD's) so-called vision, you must have thought that by scrapping rickshaws there will be enough space for cars and other vehicles on the roads.”

Appearing for Manushi Sangathan, counsel Prashant Bhushan told the Court that the MCD had put a ceiling of 99,000 for grant of cycle rickshaw licences in the Capital, though there might be about five lakh rickshaws plying in Delhi. These rickshaws did not have licences because no new licences were being issued.

The Bench after hearing counsel for the parties declined to interfere with the High Court order quashing the municipal rules.

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