Carriage; Fr. George Panakezham Vs. Regional Transport Officer [Kerala High Court, 07-08-1998]

Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 – Section 52 – Alteration of Vehicle – Goods Vehicle as passenger service – Whether the registering authority has got legal right to sanction alteration of goods carriage vehicle into a passenger transport vehicle under the Motor Vehicles Act and Rules – Held,  after undergoing prototype test when it was certified that the use of the vehicle is for carriage of goods, the same cannot be altered by the registering authority as a passenger vehicle.

Goods Carriage

1998 (2) KLT 905 : 1998 (2) KLJ 638 : AIR 1999 Ker. 133

IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM

K.S. Radhakrishnan, J.

August 7, 1998

Fr. George Panakezham Vs. Regional Transport Officer

O.P. No. 12297 of 1998

For Petitioner: K.K. John, Advocate; For Respondent: N. Reghuraj (Government Pleader)

JUDGMENT

K.S. Radhakrishnan, J.

1. The question that has come up for consideration in this case is as to whether the registering authority has got legal right to sanction alteration of goods carriage vehicle into a passenger transport vehicle under the Motor Vehicles Act and Rules.

2. Central Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and the Rules framed thereunder oblige every manufacturer of motor vehicle other than trailers and semi-traitors to submit the prototype of the vehicle to be manufactured for test by the Vehicle Research and Development Establishment of the Ministry of Defence of the Government of India or Automotive Research Association of India, Pune, or the Central Machinery Testing and Training Institute, Bundni (MP) or the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun and such other agencies as may be specified by the Central Government for granting a certificate by that agency as to the compliance of provisions of the Act and Rules. After the commencement of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and Rules, 1989, all the vehicles are approved for registration, subject to the compliance of prototype test. R.126 of the Central Rules is extracted below for easy reference:

126. Prototype of every motor vehicle to be subject to test

On and from the date of commencement of Central Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Rules, 1993, every manufacturer of motor vehicles other than trailors and semi-trailors shall submit the prototype of the vehicle to be manufactured by limine for test by the Vehicle Research and Development Establishment of the Ministry of Defence of the Government of India, or Automotive Research Association of India, Pune, or the Central Machinery Testing and Training Institute (Budni) M.P. or the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun, and such other agencies as may be specified by the Central Government for granting a certificate by that agency as to the compliance of provisions of the Act and these rules.”

R.126A also authorises the testing agencies referred to in R.126 to conduct test in accordance with the procedures laid down by the Central Government on vehicles drawn from the production line of the manufacturer to verify whether these vehicles conform to the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 or Rules and orders made thereunder. S.52 of the Motor Vehicles Act states that no owner of a motor vehicle shall so alter the vehicle that the particulars contained in the certificate of registration are no longer accurate, unless he has given notice to She registering authority within whose jurisdiction he has the residence or the place of business where the vehicle is normally kept, as the case may be, of the alteration he proposes to make.

3. Applications are being received by the registering authority from individuals seeking permission for change of the commercial vehicle to that of passenger vehicle. Ministry of Surface Transport considered the matter and subsequently, issued a communication No. RT-11011/1/88-TAG dated 31.7.1990 to all the State Transport Authorities and Regional Transport Authorities in the country, which reads as follows:

“l am directed to say that a reference has been received in this Ministry seeking clarification as to whether the transport vehicle like a pick-up van, viz., Tata 206 (Tatamobile) can be converted into a non-transport vehicle. There has been cases where pickup vans are sought to be converted into passenger cars by making structural changes in the vehicles and applications have been received by some registering authorities from individuals to permit such changes on the ground that they come within the ambit of alternation contemplated by S.52 of the M.V. Act. The pick up vans and similar light commercial vehicles are manufactured after they undergo prototype tests and it is intended to be used only for the purpose for which the prototype have been tested. Unless the prototype testing also covers the use of the vehicles as a passenger car, the same vehicle cannot be altered and got registered as a passenger vehicle.”

4. We have to examine as to whether the clarification issued by the Central Government is in accordance with S.52 of the Act read with R.126 of the Rules.

5. Petitioner’s vehicles is Tata 407, goods carriage van tested and registered as a goods carriage. Petitioner’s vehicle is manufactured and certified for carrying goods. Petitioner has now submitted an application for alteration of the class of vehicle as a school bus. He has to build a body for a school bus for taking passengers. Petitioner’s application was rejected by Ext. P3 order dated 17.6.1998. According to Department since the vehicle was registered in accordance with the Prototype certificate and for the purpose mentioned therein, that is for the purpose of carrying goods, the same cannot be altered for the carriage of passengers. S.52 of the Motor Vehicles Act specifically says that no owner of the motor vehicle shall so alter the vehicle unless he obtains the approval of the registering authority to make such alteration.

6. In the matter of granting approval, all the Regional Transport Authorities are guided by the instructions issued by the Ministry of Surface Transport vide their communication dated 31.7.1990. It is categorically stated therein that unless the prototype testing also covers the use of the vehicle as a passenger car, the same vehicle cannot be altered and got registered as a passenger vehicle. The above direction of the Ministry of Surface Transport shows that prototype test should also certify the use of the vehicle. When a vehicle manufactured and built and prototype test was conducted for the purpose of carriage of goods, the same cannot be used for carriage of passengers, unless and until it is so certified. Insistence of conducting prototype testing is for the purpose of finding out whether a vehicle can be used for a particular purpose.

7. The vehicle purchased by the petitioner was certified by the manufacturer as well as by the registering authority as a goods carriage. Goods carriage is defined under S.2(14) of the Motor Vehicles Act as any motor vehicle constructed or adapted for use solely for the carriage of goods, or any motor vehicle not so constructed or adapted when used for the carriage of goods. Petitioner wants to change the registration of the vehicle to that of a passenger transfer vehicle. Before issuing form No. 22 every manufacturer has to comply with Rr.47G, 115(6), 124, 126a and 127. Manufacturer has also to issue a certificate in form No. 22 A stating that he has complied with pollution standard, safety standards, road worthiness, etc. It is after complying with all these formalities that the manufacturer has described the vehicle as goods carriage. As already mentioned, after complying with the prototype test, the registering authority under S.52 of the Act cannot change or alter the basic and fundamental factors. That is not within the power of the registering authority.

8. Petitioner has produced Ext. P4 letter from the Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company Ltd. stating that the vehicle in question conforms to the basic aggregates like Engine, Gear box, Steering and differential, chassis frame, Assemblies, etc., for both the Bus Cowl and Truck Cowl and this can be used either for bus or truck application. I am of the view that the vehicle in question has already undergone a prototype test after manufacture. Prototype test certifies that the vehicle can be used as a goods carriage. It may be open to the Vehicle Research and Development Establishment of the Ministry of Defence of the Government of India or other recognised organisations to certify the use of the vehicle as a passenger vehicle.

9. In the instant case, I am of the view that registering authority is justified in taking the stand that after undergoing prototype test when it was certified that the use of the vehicle is for carriage of goods, the same cannot be altered by the registering authority as a passenger vehicle.

10. In this case, petitioner has not challenged the communication of the Ministry of Surface Transport to all the STA s and RTA s to comply with it. In fact, this court had occasion to consider the said question in