January 10, 2019:
If you have modified your desi model vehicle to satiate your penchant for making it resemble any sleek foreign brand, then transport authorities from now onwards will refuse to register the vehicle.
In an important judgment, the SC bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran on Tuesday overturned a Kerala High Court decision and ruled that the vehicle being registered must meet the ‘original specifications by the manufacturer’ as was mandated under Section 52(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act.
The bench said minor alterations like painting the car or vehicle and minor fitments as permitted under the Act would not disqualify a vehicle, but the moment structural changes were effected, to the body or chassis of the vehicle, it would not be eligible for registration.
It said, “The emphasis of section 52(1) is not to vary the original specifications by the manufacturer.”
Writing the judgment, Justice Mishra said only the prototype of the vehicle manufactured is tested for road-worthiness and safety features and hence, no vehicle which does not match the original manufacturer specifications could be permitted to be registered.
It said even for replacing the engine of a old vehicle with an new engine of same make and capacity, one has to take prior permission from the registering authority or face the danger of getting registration cancelled.
The bench said, “The object and clear intent of amended Section 52 is that the vehicle cannot be so altered that the particulars contained in the certificate of registration are at variance with those originally specified by the manufacturer.”
However, it clarified retro fitments of cars with CNG kits have been permitted by the Central government under the law and hence it would not count as structural change.
It cited an earlier decision of the court by which the registration of a goods vehicle, which was altered into an ambulance, was cancelled.
The bench accepted the contention of additional solicitor general Aman Lekhi, who had argued that Kerala HC failed to appreciate the purport of Section 52 of the Act, which permitted no structural variation in original specifications of vehicle produced by the manufacturer and any such change in the design affecting the structural specification would make the vehicle liable for cancellation of its registration.
Would it impact companies which alter the desi-model vehicle to jazz it up into an eye-catching model?
The SC did not refer to these eventualities. What about those who alter the vehicles after registration? Though the SC is silent on it, it indicated that those vehicles would be liable for cancellation of their registration.