Central Information Commissioner, Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu has directed the Transport Department to submit a report as to how, who and on what basis was the accused in the Uber Taxi rape case, given this permit, give reasons for his not having a driving license and for not taking his past conduct into account. The public authority was also directed to inform the Commission as to what steps they would take to prevent such kind of granting of permits.
The CIC observed, “The Commission finds it an alarming aspect that certain taxis are left free on the roads without any policy prescription for such verification and mandatory training, which facilitate the crime such as recent sexual assault on a woman by the driver of a Tourist Taxi operating through a mobile-app based company.”
The Commission noted that the accused driver did not undergo the mandatory police verification. Neither was a background check conducted by the company. Also, he did not have a driving license issued by the Delhi Transport Authority, which is recommended for those engaged in driving cabs in the capital.
Noting the severe lack of regulations and their implementation, the Central Information Commissioner, observed, “It appears that this crime could have been prevented if the transport authorities had first prescribed the badge as part of the permit conditions and enforced it strictly. It should have necessitated police verification where perhaps, the rape accused Shivkumar Yadav’s real character or fake certificates could have been discovered leading to refusing permit to ply on Delhi roads. Absence of this rule reflects defective or bad governance of Transport Authority.”
The appellant, Mr. Rakesh Agarwal sought information regarding files of the auto rickshaws registered in 2013; copy of permit conditions for Black & Yellow taxi, Radio taxis, Economy Radio taxis, Tourist taxis, Gram Sewa vehicle and copy of permit conditions applicable to auto rickshaws.
The CPIO however, replied that the information on a few points did not pertain to the Taxi Unit, Burari and the other half of the information was already provided on the website. From the information provided, the appellant was surprised to find out that there were no special permit conditions for Black and Yellow taxis (DL 1 T type) and for Tourist permit taxis ( DL 1 Y type), which meant that these taxis could ply without obtaining particular badge.
Appellant also asserted that if he was caught he could simply walk free after paying maximum fine Rs 100 cash on the spot. He hence contended that the transport department should have imposed permit conditions for plying of these taxis, and in contravention they should be penalised to pay Rs 10,000 in a traffic court and/or a prison sentence up to one year under Section 192 A of Motor Vehicle Act, 1988.
The extent of ignorance on the part of the transport authorities was highlighted by the appellant. Even the lesser penalty of Rs 100 is seldom levied on Black and Yellow Taxis and Touirist permit taxis out of the mistaken belief that the drivers of these taxis are exempt from holding a badge.
Highlighting such lacunas, CIC asserted, “A simple verification of driving license could have revealed the real character of this cab driver, who was having a long criminal history of being a serial sexual offender, accused of molestation in 2003, booked under Arms Act in 2006, robbery in 2013 in Manipuri, rape in South Delhi’s Mehrauli in 2011 (assaulting a bar dancer) and also in a rape case in 2013 being released on bail, prior to which he spent seven months in Tihar Jail. The fact that he was driving taxi in Delhi for last several years shows how lax our transport authority’s governance was.”
Hence, exercising its power under Section 19(8) (a), required the public authority to inform the appellant, the public in general, women in particular and this Commission,
Further, the public authority was directed to publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing decisions which affect the public and also provide reasons for its administrative or quasi judicial decisions to affected persons. The website of the Transport Department was directed to be updated, making it accessible and navigable. A report in this regard to urged to be submitted to the Commission.
Read the CIC order here.