App-based cab aggregator Ola has been suspended from operating in Bengaluru for the next six months by the Regional Transport Office for violating its license conditions, an official notice said. The action is being taken after the cab aggregator operated illegal bike taxis, as per the Karnataka On Demand Transportation Technology Aggregators Rules 2016. According to the suspension order, Ola cannot run its aggregator service for any vehicles including cars, autos and bikes in the city for 6 months.
Currently, bike taxis in Karnataka are illegal due to lack of policy framework and is also strongly opposed by the Ola TaxiForSure and Uber Drivers’ Association in fear of loss of business.
Recently, Ola and other cab aggregators which operate bike taxis have been facing the heat from the Transport Department. In February, transport officials seized close to 500 such bike taxis for operating illegally. Ola and Rapido, a bike taxi aggregator service, have been asked to stop services immediately.
However, it was unclear whether Ola and Rapido would appeal against the order in court.
"The order was issued on March 18 but it was communicated to Ola only today (Friday). They will have to submit their license to the RTO within three days of receiving the order. Booking on Ola from Friday is illegal," the Joint Commissioner of Transport told TNM.
The official notice said that the suspension order was given as the company’s reply to the RTO’s notice was unsatisfactory.
"Earlier this year, Transport Department officials had seized several bikes which were operating as bike taxis for Ola. The officials probed the case and submitted a report to the Transport Commissioner. According to section 11 (1) The Karnataka On Demand Transportation Technology Aggregators Rules 2016, the Transport Department can decide to cancel the license of the cab aggregator as there is a violation of rules,” an extract of the notice read.
“Prior to this, a notice must be sent to the company in question. Hence on February 15, 2019, the Transport Department had sent Ola a notice, asking the company to respond to the findings of the probe. Ola sent its reply on March 3, 2019. As the company's reply was not satisfactory and did not provide any evidence which proved it did not violate norms, the Transport Department, as on March 18, 2019 has decided to suspend the license of Ola for a period of six months. Ola will have to submit the original copy of the license within three days of receiving a copy of this order," the notice added.
A statement from Ola said it is closely working with the authorities and making proactive representations to the ministry.
Their statement said, "Ola is a law-abiding company that has always worked with the Government to develop livelihoods, improve mobility, and enable a new technology industry. We are evaluating all options to find an amicable solution wherein hundreds of thousands of driver-partners in the state of Karnataka can continue to work and serve the mobility needs of our citizens. We have been closely working with the authorities on this topic, responding to queries and making proactive representations to the ministry. Despite other companies continuing to operate illegally, Ola halted our bike taxi experiment weeks ago, instead seeking the state’s cooperation to develop a legal framework for a pilot that will continue to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the mobility economy."