Observing that "what is prohibited under the law cannot be permitted", a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul directed the Delhi government and the authorities concerned to act in conformity with the laws and prevent the plying of unregistered erickshaws.

The bench left it to Parliament and the Centre to decide what legislative changes need to be introduced to regulate the plying of erickshaws.

"In sum, the plying of un-registered erickshaws is illegal as per the law as it exists today. We can't anticipate the legislative changes that may be brought about or the alterations in the statutory rules that may be introduced in the future. That is for Parliament and the Central Government to consider and act upon.

"For the present, a mandamus can certainly be issued to ensure that what is prohibited by law is not permitted in action. Therefore, we confirm our direction given on July 31, 2014, that respondents(Delhi government and other authorities) shall act in conformity with the said Act and Central Motor Vehicles(CMV) Rules and prevent the plying of unregistered e-rickshaws. The writ petition is allowed to this extent," the bench said.

It rejected the Centre's argument that there is a vacuum in legislation and till the same is filled the court may temporarily allow plying of e-rickshaws.

"In the case before us, there is no vacuum or gaps to be filled or no absence of legislation; on the contrary there is a legislative prohibition," the bench said, adding that "none of the decisions" cited by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Pinky Anand, appearing for Centre, and advocate R K Kapoor, for the Battery Rickshaw Welfare Association, "come to their aid".

The judgement came on the plea of social activist Shanawaz Khan, filed through advocate Sugrive Dubey, opposing the running of erickshaws alleging they are designed to carry only four people but ferry more than that, thus endangering the lives of the passengers.

The court had on July 31 banned plying of e-rickshaws on the roads of the national capital saying "prima facie they are a hazard to other traffic as well as citizens".

Seeking lifting of the ban, the Ministry of Transport and the association had pleaded that till the plying of e-rickshaws is made lawful by Parliament and Central Government, the court may permit their operation on the basis of temporary guidelines framed by the Centre.

It had said that lifting the ban would mitigate any hardship caused to thousands of people who operate these vehicles and their families as well as to lakhs of citizens of the city who depend on e-rickshaws for last mile connectivity.

Rejecting their plea, the bench today said, "Can this court by a writ or direction under Article 226 permit something which has been expressly prohibited by Parliament and, more so, when none of the provisions of the said Act are under challenge? We think not.

"There is no authority in law for the proposition that what is validly prohibited can be validly permitted by an order of the court. The validity of the said Act and the CMV Rules are not questioned, yet, we are called upon to overlook the valid prohibitions contained therein and permit the plying of e-rickshaws till such time Parliament and/or Central Government legitimize it."

In its 34-page judgement, the bench also said "Courts can certainly iron out the creases, sandpaper the rough surfaces and chisel the jagged ends in a legislation to arrive at the true intent of the legislature, which, in turn, is an embodiment of the will of the people.

"High Courts can also quash provisions of statutes and, indeed, entire statutes if they run contrary to the Constitution. But, a High Court cannot create a statute, much less, permit what is prohibited by a valid statutory provision. We are not creators of law but, the interpreters and guardians of law."

It also held that erickshaws have to be registered, need to have permits, be covered by an appropriate policy of insurance and be driven by persons holding driving licences.

"This, we have seen, has not been happening. The e-rickshaws hitherto plying on the roads of Delhi were not registered, they did not have permits and did not have any insurance cover," it said.

The court also said the fund of Rs 10 lakhs said to have been raised by the association "cannot take the place of the statutory requirement of an insurance cover.

"Their drivers also, by and large, did not possess driving licences. All in all, their plying on the roads in

Delhi was and is unauthorised and illegal. A posit on, which the Delhi Government has clearly brought out in its first and second replies.

The Union of India has also recognised this and, as their affidavit states, has evolved a broad framework of guidelines for making rules for e-rickshaws." the bench said.

Referring to a report of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), which had been roped in by Delhi government to conduct a study of electric rickshaws, the court said "it is clear" that "the e-rickshaws tested did not meet criteria for exemption under the CMV Rules" and "the components and processes used in the manufacturing of e-rickshaws are not standardised".

"Specific design standards could be specified, for which a technical committee may be constituted by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways," it also noted in its order, adding "the government's attention is needed with regard to the safe disposal of e-rickshaw batteries and use of clean electricity for charging them."

"The complete unregulated growth of e-rickshaws in such huge numbers in the city raises concerns related to the safety and security of the passengers," the bench also said, while referring to TERI report and added "It is strongly felt that e-rickshaws should be regulated to ensure safety and security of passengers".

The plea had contended that erickshaws had no registration numbers and the vehicles were putting passengers at risk.

In three months, around 200 accident cases, including two fatalities, have been registered, the plea had said, adding that erickshaws should not be allowed to ply as they are "high risk vehicles".

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