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London's Black Cabbies Lose High Court Battle to Get Uber's Licence Revoked

Dismissing the case, Chief Justice of the High Court Lord Ian Burnett said the judge who granted the licence was not biased.


Updated:February 27, 2019, 11:24 AM IST
London's Black Cabbies Lose High Court Battle to Get Uber's Licence Revoked
A photo illustration shows the Uber app and a black cab in London, Britain. (Image: Reuters)

London: London's black cab drivers on Tuesday lost their High Court battle to get Uber's licence to operate in the British capital revoked.

The United Cabbies Group (UCG), which operate the city's metered taxis, had claimed the decision to give Uber a 15-month permit in June last year was "tainted by actual or apparent bias" of Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London.

Dismissing the case, Chief Justice of the High Court Lord Ian Burnett said the judge who granted the licence was not biased.

"Having ascertained all the circumstances bearing on the suggestion that the judge was biased, we consider that those circumstances would not lead a fair-minded and informed observer to conclude that there was a real possibility that the judge was biased in this case," the judgment declared.

It said that the list of "tenuous connections unearthed" by the black cab drivers' complaint fell "well short of evidence that would begin to give a fair-minded observer even pause for thought".

Incidentally, Arbuthnot is the judge who presided over the trial of liquor baron Vijay Mallya last year and ruled in favour of his extradition to India to face charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to an alleged Rs 9,000 crores.

Mallya has since filed an application seeking to appeal that decision in the High Court.

In the Uber case, Arbuthnot had issued a shorter licence with strict conditions in order to allow Uber to continue to operate while improving the safety standards of its service.

However, in August last year, she stepped down from hearing future cases involving Uber following a newspaper report about alleged financial connections between her husband Lord Arbuthnot and the American ride-hailing company.

At a hearing in London earlier this month, lawyers for UCG acknowledged Lady Arbuthnot was unaware of the links.

But they said she should have "checked for any potential conflicts of interest" before making her decision on Uber's licence.

They also argued the decision was not open to her because Uber did not meet the "fit and proper person" criteria necessary for holding a licence.

However, the High Court did not agree with their arguments.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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