Ban on rickshaws challenged before apex court


New Delhi : The Supreme Court Wednesday issued notices to the central and Delhi governments among others on a petition challenging a Delhi High Court order banning rickshaws in Chandni Chowk in the old walled city area and other arterial roads.

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A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran issued the notices also to the city police and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi on a petition by non-governmental organisation, Initiatives for Transportation and Developmental Programmes.

The NGO challenged the high court's Oct 16, 2006, order banning the movement of rickshaws in Chandni Chowk and nearby arterial roads.

Banning the rickshaws, Justice Kailash Gambhir had said in his order: "If the cycle rickshaws are allowed on arterial roads, meant for motorized vehicles, it would not only affect smooth flow of traffic but also create congestion, resulting in long traffic jams and wastage of fuel."

"The rickshaw pullers for their own safety and for the safety of commuters cannot be allowed to ply their cart on arterial roads," Justice Gambhir had said.

The NGO, however, challenged the order, arguing that, "the order portrays a picture as if rickshaws are some sort of menace, which is contrary to the facts".

"Various technical researches show that rickshaws are virtually indispensable for a majority of commuters of Delhi as an efficient, effective and low cost means of transportation for short distances," the NGO said in its petition.

It also pointed out that the Delhi Traffic Police, the statutory authority to control traffic in the capital, had earlier made a proposal to regulate traffic in Chandni Chowk without banning the rickshaws as they had found them indispensable.

The NGO contended that regulating traffic in the city is a technical matter and the high court cannot take a decision on it.

Pointing out the "social impact of banning rickshaws", the NGO said there are over 800,000 rickshaws, employing over a million people, who "would lose their jobs and be driven to penury and destitution".

"Rickshaws pulling is a preferred choice for unskilled people, especially migrants, as it does not require huge investment, the work timings are flexible, is less strenuous than industrial or construction work and is reasonably well-paid," the petitioner argued.