This article was originally published by Ashesh Shrestha in the Himalayan Times on December 01, 2019.
Once again ridesharing businesses face prohibition in Nepal owing to Motor- Vehicle and Transport Management Act, 1993 which do not allow vehicles with red number plate to use as a medium of public transportation. Vehicles with red number plate are private vehicles and cannot be used for transportation. These businesses confronted this problem for the first time on January 12 when traffic police arrested riders from Tootle and Pathao which are two of the most popular mobile app-based platforms for bike ride sharing in Nepal. The police took legal action as a response to the complaint made against these platforms by Nepal Meter Taxi Association. But, the support from the public– who hugely benefitted by these platforms–in their favour worked as a stimulus leading the Prime Minister to initiate executive decision leading the lifting of the ban. However, most recently the Department of Transport Management published a notice stating that use of private vehicles to provide transportation services is illegal as per the law and any such act is legally punishable.
In the world of changing economic dynamics, discouraging such innovative businesses should be undeniably dispirited. Such platforms do not only generate employment and provide services at relatively cheaper price but also ensures that resources are better utilized as empty back seats of motorcycles come into use. So, questions that need to be answered are: Who or what is to be blamed and what can be done so that innovative businesses like such are promoted instead of being constantly put into the threat of getting shut down?
Here, we cannot blame the Department of Transport Management as it is a body executing Motor- Vehicle and Transport Management Act, 1993. It is just doing its job. Clearly, the problem lies within 26 years old act which clearly does not take the changing dynamics of transportation sector of current period into consideration. Moreover, it is in direct conflict with the Constitution of Nepal and several other laws and legislative documents.
Article 17 2(F) of the constitution confers upon every citizen with the freedom to profess any occupation and establish and operate any industry, trade, and business in any part of Nepal. This particular article not only makes ride-sharing platforms legal but also provides the operators and riders with the constitutional right to use these platforms to earn money. Here, aforementioned Act is in direct contradiction with the Constitution.
The Bill made for formation of Kathmandu Valley Public Transportation Authority, 2019 states that along with the traditional means of transportation, public transportation also comprises ride-sharing as a means of public transport in Kathmandu Valley. The definition of public transportation provided in this bill opens door to the ride sharing platforms to operate and provide public transportation service legally. Sub-section 1 of section 13 of Act related to Vehicles and transportation of State no. 3, 2019 states that vehicles used for private purpose will be termed as non- business purpose vehicle and such vehicles cannot be used for providing public transport services according to sub-section 2 of the same section. However, Sub-section 4 states that notwithstanding anything contained in Sub-section 2, the vehicles (two or four-wheeler) which have been registered as private vehicle can be used as a means of public transport by fulfilling all the requirements which will be specified in the subsequent regulation.
Nepal’s Constitution and the new laws being made both by the federal and state governments seem to be welcoming innovation brought by the market and innovative entrepreneurs. The new laws have acknowledged the new ways of providing transportation services. These laws have also exemplified that policies and laws should be compatible with changing traditions of doing business as society progresses. As mentioned above, the only law barring ride sharing platforms to be used as a means of public transportation is Motor-Vehicle and Transport Management Act, 1993. The Act directly contradicts the constitutional provision of freedom to profess any occupation using one’s resources and the archaic act made by just considering the context of that period fails to address the contemporary technological dynamics of modern society. Therefore, it can clearly be argued that the Act needs immediate amendments so that it does not only welcome but also encourage innovative ideas for easing public transportation like ride-sharing platforms in Nepal.