Mumbai, Mar 1 (PTI) The Bombay High Court today held as illegal a circular issued by the Maharashtra government making knowledge of Marathi a pre-condition for issuance of new auto-rickshaw permits.

A division bench of justices A S Oka and Anuja Prabhudessai passed the order on a petition filed by Mira Bhayander Auto Rickshaw Chalak Sangathan, a union of rickshaw drivers from neighbouring Mira Bhayander area.

The petition had challenged a circular issued by the government to the Regional Transport Offices in 2016.

“If an applicant for permit does not fulfil the condition of having knowledge of Marathi, then his application cannot be disqualified,” the bench ruled.

The court said the government has the power to make rules, but it cannot introduce them through a circular.

The circular said that from November 1, 2016 new permits will be given only to those who can speak Marathi.

The petitioners argued that imposing this condition for issuing ‘badges’ to auto rickshaw drivers was still understandable, but it did not make sense for auto rickshaw permits, because in many cases the rickshaw owner rents out the vehicle to others.

The bench accepted this argument, saying, “Prima facie this condition cannot be applied while issuing permits. It is illegal and not correct.”

The court also asked the government to devise a grievance redressal mechanism to deal with complaints of rude behaviour of auto-rickshaw drivers or refusal to take the passenger where he or she wants to go.

There should be a call centre, a WhatsApp number and an e-mail account where passengers can file a complaint, said the court.

The government was asked to file an affidavit on compliance of the order by May 3. The bench also asked the petitioner union to file an affidavit about the steps it has taken to ensure that their members follow the rules and do not misbehave with passengers.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.