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8 senior counsel argued in SC over safety & legality of 'cute' quadricycles yesterday

Is it a car? Is it ‘qute’? More importantly, is it dangerous?
Is it a car? Is it ‘qute’? More importantly, is it dangerous?

The case involving the legality of the lightweight, intra-city, four-wheeled travel vehicle, known as quadricycles, took an interesting turn yesterday before the bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI), TS Thakur and Justice UU Lalit, with heavyweight senior lawyers being hired by both the petitioners and the respondents.

The bench heard the matter as item 12 before noon yesterday (22 February).

The case was earlier heard by the bench of justices Dipak Misra and PC Pant. The Supreme Court had stayed the introduction of quadricycles, and transferred to itself pending cases in various high courts.

Today, the CJI, who heard it for the first time, expressed his surprise over the controversy, and wanted to look at the pictures of quadricycles.

The case, Union of India vs. Rita Das Mozumdar & Ors & Etc. Etc., arose out of judgment and order passed by the Gauhati High Court in a PIL (see judgment below), which banned:

the auto manufacturers to release and sell the small 4-wheelers with a mass up to 1500 kg and quadri-cycles without putting them to crash-test and emission test

The UOI is appealing against this judgment.

Yesterday, among the parties which sought the lifting of the ban were the AG (representing the UOI), and senior advocates P Chidambaram, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, and Shyam Divan.

Among those who opposed the lifting of the ban were Gopal Subramanium, KV Vishwanathan, Aryama Sundaram, and KK Venugopal.

Safety aspects or conspiracy of autos?

Gopal Subramanium opposed the quadricycles on the ground of road safety, claiming that quadricycles failed crash tests in Europe.

The AG, however, alleged that it was a concocted PIL, backed by the auto-rickshaw association, and that the vehicle has gone through all necessary tests.

The bench, however, said it wanted to look at the file in its entirety, including the safety aspects.

The AG claimed that the special committee, appointed to examine the vehicle, has made several suggestions, such as not allowing the vehicle to have a speed of more than 40 km per hour, and barring its use on the highway.

Thakur asked the AG how he could prevent its plying on the highway.

Thakur took serious note of the allegation expressed by the respondents that the recommendations to ensure safety were not followed.

Today, the counsel for the petitioners seeking vacation of the stay of the quadricycle vehicles, pointed to the fact that manufacturers were exporting them to other countries.

According to reports in the media, Bajaj’s quadricycle, RE60, called ‘the Qute’ is exported to 16 markets in Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia at a price of around $2000.

The Central Government first notified certain amendments to the Motor Vehicles Rules in 2014 so as to classify quadricycles as a new category of vehicles.

These amended rules were challenged before the high courts of Karnataka, Delhi, Gujarat and Madras.

Thereupon, the Supreme Court stayed the proceedings before the high courts, and transferred the cases to itself.

Gauhati high court proceedings

It was contended by PIL petitioners that the small passenger cars produced by the manufacturers in India did not conform to safety standards.

“They are not put to scrutiny of crash-testing (otherwise called frontal impact test)”, they claimed. Video demonstration was done in open court to show that the small cars manufactured in India have failed crash tests conducted by the European New Car Assessment Programme (ENCAP), the report of which was annexed to the petition.

The test conducted in November, 2014 disclosed that frontal collision in a simulated state driven at a speed of 60km per hour had proven dangerous to life and limbs of driver and passengers, notwithstanding seat-belts.

The Gauhati high court had directed the Centre not to permit the sale of quadricycles without crash tests.

Readers can read the order passed after the last hearing of the case below.

Due to the change in the bench hearing the matter, its resolution will likely take further time.

What is a quadricyle, you ask?

They looks like tiny cars. Wikipedia defines them as “European categories of four-wheeled microcars defined by limitations in terms of weight, power and speed”.

SC Special Leave to Appeal in Quadricycles case of 15 December 2015 (PDF)

[documentcloud http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2717607-Quadricycles-GAUHATI-HC-ORDER html Quadricycles - GAUHATI HC ORDER]

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