Reading of Section 19 of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, makes it clear that if a licensing authority is satisfied, after giving the holder of a driving licence an opportunity of being heard, that he, “by using or used a motor vehicle in the commission of cognizable offence”, such authority can disqualify the holder licence, for a specified period, for holding or obtaining any driving licence to drive all or any classes or descriptions of vehicles specified in the licence or he can even revoke the licence.
# Driving Licence
It is also to be noted that the legislature has also clearly demarcated the powers of the Courts and the licensing authorities., as to when the licence can be suspended or revoked, when there is commission of a cognizable offence or for conviction of an offence.
Sections 19 and 21 deal with the powers of the Licensing authority. Sections 20 and 22 deal with the powers of the Court. The circumstances under which the holder of the licence can be disqualified for a specified period in Section 19(1) are different from the one in Section 21. Both operate under different sphere.
Section 19(1) speaks of commission of cognizable offence in contra to Section 21, which speaks about previous conviction under Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act.
The usage of the words, “commission of a cognizable offence” and “conviction”, in two different sections in the enactment and the power to suspend or disqualify, as the case may be, for specific and definite reasons set out in the Sections, have to be given their plain and literal meaning.
To say that only after conviction or arriving at the conclusion, a licence can be suspended or licence can be temporarily disqualified would render Section 19 of the Motor Vehicle Act, as redundant.
# See Also : [V.Rajendran v. The Regional Transport Officer, Thanjavur, Madhurai Bench of the Madras High Court]
Section 19 of the Act reads as follows:
# “19. Power of licensing authority to disqualify from holding a driving licence or revoke such licence:–
(1) If a licensing authority is satisfied, after giving the holder of a driving licence an opportunity of being heard, that he–
(a) is a habitual criminal or habitual drunkard; or
(b) is a habitual addict to any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance within the meaning of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (61 of 1985); or
(c) is using or has used a motor vehicle in the commission of a cognizable offence; or
(d) has by his previous conduct as driver of a motor vehicle shown that his driving is likely to be attended with danger to the public; or
(e) has obtained any driving licence or a licence to drive a particular class or description of motor vehicle by fraud or misrepresentation; or
(f) has committed any such act which is likely to cause nuisance or danger to the public, as may be prescribed by the Central Government, having regard to the objects of this Act; or
(g) has failed to submit to, or has not passed, the tests referred to in the proviso to sub-section (3) of Section 22; or
(h) being a person under the age of eighteen years who has been granted a learner’s licence or a driving licence with the consent in writing of the person having the care of the holder of the licence and has ceased to be in such care, it may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, make an order–
(i) disqualifying that person for a specified period for holding or obtaining any driving licence to drive all or any classes or descriptions of vehicles specified in the licence; or
(ii) revoke any such licence.
(2) Where an order under sub-section (1) is made, the holder of a driving licence shall forthwith surrender his driving licence to the licensing authority making the order, if the driving licence has not already been surrendered, and the licensing authority shall,–
(a) if the driving licence is a driving licence issued under this Act, keep it until the disqualification has expired or has been removed; or
(b) if it is not a driving licence issued under this Act, endorse the disqualification upon it and send it to the licensing authority by which it was issued; or
(c) in the case of revocation of any licence, endorse the revocation upon it and if it is not the authority which issued the same, intimate the fact of revocation to the authority which issued that licence:
Provided that where the driving licence of a person authorises him to drive more than one class or description of motor vehicles and the order, made under sub-section (1), disqualifies him from driving any specified class or description of motor vehicles, the licensing authority shall endorse the disqualification upon the driving licence and return the same to the holder.
(3) Any person aggrieved by an order made by a licensing authority under sub-section (1) may, within thirty days of the receipt of the order, appeal to the prescribed authority, and such appellate authority shall give notice to the licensing authority and hear either party if so required by that party and may pass such order as it thinks fit and an order passed by any such appellate authority shall be final.”
A reading of the above provision shows that where a licensing authority is satisfied, after giving the holder of a driving licence an opportunity of being heard, of the existence of any of the circumstances made mention of in clauses (a) to (h) or sub section (i) thereof, such person can be disqualified for a specified period from holding or obtaining a driving licence to drive all or any of the classes of vehicles specified in the licence.
Clause (a) deals with a situation where he is a habitual criminal or habitual offender. However, clause (c) which stipulates that where the licencing authority is satisfied that “he is using or has used a motor vehicle in the commission of a cognizable offence” applies squarely to him.
[The above discussion on driving licence is extracted from a significant judgment of the Kerala High Court in Peethambaran T.R. Vs. Additional Licensing Authority, North Paravoor authored by Justice K. Surendra Mohan.]