John Beaumont, Kt., C.J.
1. This is a reference made by the Sessions Judge of Poona. It raises a question, which must be of very common occurrence, and indeed this has been argued as a test case.
2. The accused had a driving license, which expired on February 2, 1941, and on February 17 his license was examined, and was found to have expired, On the same day, However, he went to the Regional Transport Officer, and renewed his license, and the renewal was granted. A complaint was lodged against him on June 13, and he was convicted by the learned Magistrate under Section 112 of the Motor Vehicles Act for not having had an effective license on February 17. The learned Sessions Judge has referred the matter to us, because he thinks that the conviction was wrong.
3. Now, under Section 3 of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1939 it is provided that no person shall drive a motor vehicle in any public place unless he holds an effective license issued to himself authorizing him to drive the vehicle. Section 10 provides that a license issued under the foregoing sections shall be effective without renewal for a period of twelve months only from the date of issue or last renewal. The effect of that is that the accused's license was effective for a year from the date of last renewal, which was February 2, 1940, so that on February 17, 1941, when the license was examined the accused had not got in fact an effective license.
4. But then reliance is placed on Section 11(5), which provides that the fee payable for the renewal of a license shall be three rupees, if the application for renewal is made previous to, or not more than fifteen days subsequent to, the date on which the license is due to expire, and shall be five rupees in any other case, except as therein mentioned. It is argued that within the clays of grace the old license is effective, but, in my opinion, that sub section has nothing whatever to do with the effectiveness of the license. It merely enables a licensee to obtain his license at a lower rate, if he applies within fifteen days of the expiration of his old license. When the accused applied on February 17, for renewing his old license, he was entitled to get a renewal on payment of three rupees; but, in my opinion, lip could not claim; renewal except for one year from the date of application, and if the license had been renewed to him from February 18, that is the next day, for a year, he would have had no answer to the charge that he had not got an effective license on February 17. But what the licensing authority did was to issue him a renewal up to February 2, 1942. As the license is effective for a year, in effect it must have been antedated to February 2, 1941. It seems to me, therefore, that at the time when the prosecution was launched, the accused could produce a license which in terms was effective from February 2, 1941, for a year, and which was effective therefore on the day on which the offence is alleged to have been committed. The only answer which Government can make to that is to dispute their own license. They must say that, although this license purports to cover a year from February 2, 1941, to February 2, 1942, it does not really do so but covers only a period from February 18, 1941, to February 2, 1942. But Government have charged the accused for a license for one year and cannot be heard to say that they have given him something less. It seems to me that having granted a license, which dates back to February 2, 1941, Government are not in a position to prosecute the accused for not having an effective license within a year from that date.
5. On that ground the reference must be accepted, the conviction set aside and the fine, if paid, be refunded.
6. I agree.