The Bombay high court on Thursday refused to stay a Maharashtra government circular that makes knowledge of the Marathi language a pre-condition for all those applying for new auto-rickshaw licenses.
A bench of justices VM Kanade and Nutan Sardessai rejected the request made by auto rickshaw driver unions while ruling the state government was well within its powers to introduce such a condition and there was “nothing wrong in the government demanding that all auto drivers have a working knowledge of Marathi language”.
The bench took note of the state’s argument made through its counsel, assistant government pleader Vishal Thadani, that the government was only demanding 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, to have studied at least up to standard eighth.
The bench held that considering that the auto drivers ply across the city, negotiate directions, signboards etc., some knowledge of the local language was obviously necessary.
It went on to say that Mumbai, and also the rest of the state was anyway overcrowded with countless auto rickshaws that operate without valid permits. “So many auto drivers ply without valid permits, with a total disregard for licensing and traffic norms. What is the transport authority doing about it,” the bench asked.
It has also directed the state transport authority to submit details of steps to regulate the number of auto rickshaws plying in the city and to check against illegal permits.