Bombay HC quashes circular on Marathi for autorickshaw permits

Mumbai, March 1 (IANS) In a setback to Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday quashed a circular mandating knowledge of Marathi language as one of the conditions for getting a new autorickshaw permit in the state.

A division bench of Justice A.S. Oka and Justice Anuja Prabhudesai passed the order in a bunch of petitions filed by various autorickshawmen’s unions challenging the validity of the circular.

In early 2016, the state government had issued the circular to all Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) stating that henceforth, new autorickshaw permits would be given only to those applicants having knowledge of Marathi, though existing permit-holders were exempted.

The applicants would be given a test including asking them read 10 paras in Marathi to ascertain their knowledge and understanding of the state language.

Several unions had moved the court terming the circular as unfair and wrong as it deprived others of an opportunity to get autorickshaw permits.

The state government had claimed that it had sought only a basic knowledge of Marathi to apply for an autorickshaw permit.

Upholding the petitioners’ contentions, the high court quashed the circular on grounds that there is no such provision in the Motor Vehicles Act.

Mumbai has more than 200,000 autorickshaw drivers, a majority of whom hail from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, besides other states, and have little or no knowledge of Marathi.

The state government’s decision effectively deprived thousands of semi-literate applicants, especially migrants, hoping to make a gainful living by driving the popular three-wheeler cabs in the state.