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PIL says Meru drivers are being exploited; HC seeks response

Bombay High Court

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today asked Maharashtra government and radio cab service provider Meru to file replies to a petition which alleges that the company exploits its drivers.

The public interest litigation has been filed by Shailesh Pandey, a social worker.

The division bench headed by Justice V M Kanade asked the respondents to file affidavits-in-reply by July 24.

The PIL alleges that the company has cheated drivers by forcing them to enter into agreements with the motive of getting around labour laws.

The drivers enter into the company’s `taxi subscription agreement’ believing that they would become owners of the taxis they drive after a few years, but in effect the system does not allow that, says the PIL.

Each driver is required to pay Rs 1,060 per day to the company and in the case of default, he has to pay a penalty.
Moreover, the driver has to work 365 days a year and does not get any leave, the PIL alleges.

During the arguments, there was commotion among the Meru drivers who were present in a large number. The court asked Pandey’s lawyer to tell them to leave the courtroom immediately. The drivers left and the arguments resumed.

The taxi subscription agreement is one-sided and favours only the company and is against the basic tenets of valid contract and infringes on fundamental rights of drivers, the petition charges.

If the drivers violate the agreement, the company blocks their identity card, because of which they cannot ply the Meru cab. Currently, about 250 drivers have got their ID cards blocked and thus have lost their jobs, the PIL alleges.

Meru’s lawyer argued that the agreement does give the drivers the right to become owners of the cab eventually and refuted the contention that it was cheating them.

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