Read Judgment: Regional Transport Authority & Anr. V. Shaju
New Delhi, February 18, 2022: While deciding as to whether the State Government is empowered to make Rules, enabling the road transport authority to reject an application for replacement if the proposed vehicle is older than the one covered under the existing permit, the Supreme Court has ruled that Rule 174(2)(c) of the Kerala Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 is valid and salutary and does not go beyond the scope of Section 83 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
A Division Bench of Justice K.M Joseph and Justice Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha therefore observed that Rule 174(2)(c) of Kerala Motor Vehicles Rules 1989 is a provision where the Government has expressly enabled the Authority to apply discretion, wherever necessary, while exercising the power to grant replacement of a vehicle under a permit, and hence not ultra-vires the provisions of the M.V Act as the power with respect to prescription of age limit of a motor vehicle is in the exclusive domain of the Central Government.
Going by the background of the case, Shaju (Respondent) was granted a stage carriage operator permit in respect of a 38 seater vehicle, 2016 model by the Regional Transport Authority to conduct transport service on the route Pattimattam-Kakkanad in Kerala. Accordingly, the Respondent applied to the Authority u/s 83 of M.V Act r/w Rule 174 of the Kerala Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 for grant of permission to replace the vehicle covered under his permit with another vehicle, a 33-Seater, 2006 model.
Alleging inaction on the part of the Authority, the Respondent approached the High Court, whereby the Single Judge merely directed the State and the Authority to consider the application on the ground of road-worthiness alone and without reference to the model of the vehicle. On appeal, the Division Bench held that Rule 174(2)(c) of the Kerala Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 goes beyond the provision of the M.V Act.
After considering the submissions, the Top Court found that the provision of Section 83 of M.V Act is intended to only enable the owner to work his permit without any interruption even if there is a need to replace the vehicle covered by the permit.
When an application made u/s 83 is taken up, the Authority is cognizant of the fact that there is a valid and a subsisting permit and the permit holder seeks to continue operating the permit and it is only for this reason that he is seeking replacement of the vehicle, added the Court.
Speaking for the Bench, Justice Narasimha observed that the scrutiny is not of the vehicle in itself but the vehicle in relation to the permit, and it is for this reason that a scrutiny of the vehicle, stand alone, irrespective of its relation with the permit becomes an irrelevant consideration for the purpose of Section 83.
Rule 174 (2) (c) made by the State Government to enable replacement of the vehicle under a Transport permit, does not impinge upon the powers of the Central Government with respect to fixation of the age of the vehicle, or fitness of the vehicle conferred upon it, and the scrutiny under Rule 174 is only to enable the Authority to ensure that the subsisting permit is not interrupted and at the same time public interest is not compromised by deviating from the permit, added the Bench.
Justice Narsimha further opined that Rule 174(2)(c) is intended to ensure that the conditions under which a transport permit is granted is not diluted when the vehicle covered by the permit is sought to be replaced by a new vehicle.
The purpose and object of mandating replacement by a vehicle of the same nature in Section 83 is only to ensure that the scrutiny and the conditions that were undertaken and imposed at the time of the grant continue even during the subsistence of the permit, added the Bench.