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Gujarat High Court denies plea seeking financial assistance to auto-rickshaw drivers for being devoid of merits

The petitioners prayed for financial assistance to the members of Jagrut Auto Rickshaw Drivers Union and Ahmedabad Railway Station Auto Rickshaw Drivers Union for survival of their families during and after Covid-19 pandemic, in view of Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005

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The Gujarat High Court has dismissed a petition moved by two Railway Station Auto Rikshaw Driver Unions, seeking financial assistance from the state government under the Atma Nirbhar Gujarat Scheme, observing that the petitioners cannot claim financial assistance as a matter of right.

The Division Bench of Justice Bela M. Trivedi and Justice Bhargav D. Karia passed this order on July 23, while hearing a petition filed by Jagrut Auto Rickshaw Drivers Union and Ahmedabad Railway Station Auto Rickshaw Drivers Union.

The petitioners had prayed to quash and set aside the decision of the order dated March 12, 2021 not to grant a separate relief package for auto-rickshaw drivers in view of the Atma Nirbhar Gujarat Sahay Yojna.

The petitioners also prayed to pass appropriate orders for specific and reasonable financial assistance to the members of the petitioners’ Association/Union for the period of lockdown and thereafter for the survival of their families, in view of Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

K R Koshti, Counsel for the petitioners submitted that family members of the petitioners, who are surviving on their income from driving auto rickshaw, have suffered huge financial losses due to lockdown declared by the State in view of the Covid-19 Pandemic, however the State has not granted any specific relief or facilities to the persons who are working under the unorganised sector or self-employed workers.

According to him, Section 12 and 13 of the Disaster Management Act have laid down the guidelines for granting minimum standard of relief to be provided to the persons affected by disasters like Covid-19 and the same have been refused by the respondents  Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation on the ground that the Government has already declared the Atma Nirbhar Gujarat Sahay Yojna.

The Counsel for the petitioners said that auto rickshaw drivers should have been treated as self-dependent persons and should have been given a special relief package by providing financial assistance under the provisions contained in the Disaster Management Act.

“It cannot be said that the rigour of Covid pandemic had affected the lives and livelihood of people world over and caused great financial losses to every sector of the society. It can also not be denied that the state government, considering the plight of people at large, has provided relief in terms of free food, medical cover and shelter from time to time and has also granted ex-gratia assistance on account of loss of livelihood.

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The state government has also declared the Atma Nirbhar Gujarat Sahay Yojna for the persons affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic.

“Under the circumstances, the petitioners cannot claim as a matter of right to get financial assistance or monetary benefits for auto rickshaw drivers, more particularly when all the businesses and professions have been badly affected due to the pandemic. Even otherwise, as per the settled legal position, the wisdom and advisability of the policies are ordinarily not amenable to the judicial review, unless the policies are contrary to statutory or constitutional provisions or are arbitrary. In absence of any violation of legal, statutory or fundamental rights of the petitioners, the petition could not be entertained,” the Court said.
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