1. The only question raised in this petition is whether it is obligatory for the owner of a 'tourist vehicle' to produce a permit before demanding registration of the vehicle.
2. The undisputed facts behind the legal formulation are as follows :
A lawyer turned into an operator is the petitioner. He left the legal profession not by design or accident, but due to a disability suffered by a car accident. He took up transport business by keeping tourist vehicles under the reverential name 'Sri Satya Sai Tourist'. When the business was lucrative, he suddenly suffered a set-back. He had three tourist vehicles, each costing a couple of lakhs. All those vehicles were overnight acquired by the State by promulgating an Ordinance which was later replaced by the Act called 'the Karnataka Contract Carriages (Acquisition) Act, 1976.'
3. Nevertheless, the petitioner appears to have lost no heart. He wants now to revive his transport business. He has applied for an All India Tourist permit. The application is pending consideration before the State Transport Authority. It is said that it is likely to come up for consideration in the next month. All India Tourist permit could be granted in respect of a vehicle constructed as per specifications prescribed by the Government. The Government has prescribed those specifications by a notification dated 5th November, 1976. The petitioner wanted to prepare himself in advance. He purchased one Ashok Leyland Cheetah Passenger Chassis for Rs. 1,75,000/-. He got constructed a luxury coach as per All India Permit Regulations by a Bombay Coach Building firm at a cost of Rs. 1,62.000/-.
4. On 4th December, 1980, the petitioner applied for registration of the vehicle as a 'Tourist Vehicle' furnishing all the particulars required under law. The Motor Vehicles Inspector, after inspecting the vehicle, certified that its construction was in accordance with the prescribed specifications. But the Registering Authority who is the respondent herein, has declined to register the vehicle as a tourist vehicle. He has, however, offered to register is as an omnibus. His endorsement dated 12/16-12-1980 given to the petitioner reads :
'RGN. PR. 54/80-81.
Office of the Regional
Transport Officer, Bangalore,
Sub : Registration of MV as HPV Tourist omnibus.
Ref. Letter dated 4-12-1980 from Sri S. Narayana Bhatta of Bangalore.
The applicant is hereby informed that his request to register the vehicle bearing chassis No. ALC 123336 as HPV Tourist omnibus in the absence of the permit cannot be considered merely the body of MV in question is constructed in accordance to Government Notification No. HD 24 TMR dated 5-11-1976. But the MV will be registered as HPV omnibus defined under sub-section (18A) of Section 2 of the M.V. Act.
Asst. Regional Transport Officer,
The validity of the said endorsement is called into question in this petition.
5. Mr. Thilaka Hegde, counsel for the petitioner urged that there is no provision in he Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 (called shortly as 'the Act') or the Rules framed thereunder to support the view taken by the respondent and production of a permit as a condition for registration of a public service vehicle is absolutely unnecessary.
6. The respondent in his Statement of Objections has amplified the reasons for denying the registration. First, he has stated that there is a clear prohibition under the Karnataka Contract Carriages (Acquisition) Act, 1976 for registering a tourist vehicle. He has next contended that a transport vehicle not covered by permit would be liable to tax as an omnibus under the Karnataka Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1957, and the petitioner's vehicle, therefore, falls to be registered only as an omnibus.
7. The determination of these contentions require a scrutiny of the relevant provisions of the Act since there appears to be no authority on the proposition.
8. Section 24 so far as it is relevant provides :
'24. (1) An application by or on behalf of the owner of the motor vehicle for registration shall be in Form E as set forth in the First Schedule, shall contain the information required by that form, and shall be accompanied by the prescribed fee :
Provided that .............
(2) The registering authority shall issued to the owner of a motor vehicle registered by it a certificate of registration in Form G as set forth in the first Schedule and shall enter in a record to be kept by it particulars of such certificate.
(3) The registering authority shall assign to the vehicle, for display thereon in the prescribed manner, a distinguishing mark (in this Act referred to as the registration mark) consisting of .......' Section 26 requires the production of vehicle at the time of registration. Section 27 as substituted by Act 47 of 1978 sets out the circumstances under which the registration could be refused, but it applied only in respect of a motor vehicle other than a transport vehicle.
9. The applicant has to submit his application for registration of a motor vehicle under Form No. E set forth in the First Schedule. He has to give the information required thereunder like the class of vehicle, type of body, maker's name, horse power, chassis number, engine number, seating capacity, the unladen weight, maximum laden weight etc.,
Rule 52 of the Karnataka Motor Vehicles Rules, 1963 provides :
'52. Registering Authority. - (1) The Registering Authority shall be the Regional Transport Officer of the Region in which the owner has his residence or place of business, where the vehicle is normally kept.
(2) The Registration Mark to be assigned by the Registering Authority specified in Column-1 of Appendix III shall, in the case of vehicles belonging to the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation be as set forth in the corresponding entry in Column-2 and in respect of vehicles belonging to others, as set forth in the corresponding entry in Column-3 thereof.
(3) On receipt of an application under Section 24, the Registering Authority, shall subject to sub-rule (2), assign to the vehicle of the applicant, the registration number which falls in the serial order first after the registration number last assigned :
Provided xx xx xx'
The combined operation of Sections 24, 26 and Rule 52 is that the Registering Authority shall register the Motor Vehicle if the owner satisfies the conditions therein and pays the registration fee. He shall issue to the owner a certificate of registration in Form 'G' as set forth in the First Schedule. He shall also assign to the vehicle, a distinguishing mark called as the Registration mark.
10. For a comprehensive understanding of the problem presented, I may turn to some of the classification of vehicles :
Section 2(25) :
A 'public service vehicle' means 'any motor vehicle used or adapted to be used for the carriage of passengers for hire or reward, and includes a motor cab, contract carriage, and stage carriage'.
Section 2(3) :
'Contract carriage' means 'a motor vehicle which carries a passenger or passengers for hire or reward under a contract expressed or implied for the use to the vehicle as a whole at or for a fixed or agreed rate or sum ..... etc.'
Section 2(29) :
'State carriage' means 'a motor vehicle carrying or adapted to carry more than six persons excluding the driver which carries passengers for hire or reward at separate fares paid by or for individual passengers, either for the whole journey or for stages of the journey.'
Section 2(29A) :
'Tourist vehicle' means 'a contract carriage constructed or adapted and equipped and maintained in accordance with such specifications as the State Government may, by notification in the Officer Gazette, specify in this behalf.
Contract carriage, stage carriage and tourist vehicle are used or adapted to be used for the carriage of passengers for hire or reward. They fall into the general category of 'public service vehicle' meant for the benefit of travelling public. An omnibus, on the other hand, does not fall into that category. Omnibus has been defined under Section 2(18A) to mean 'any motor vehicle constructed or adapted to carry more than six persons excluding the driver.' The words 'for hire or reward' are significantly omitted under the definition of an 'omnibus.'
11. Chapter III of the Act deals exclusively with the registration and the cancellation of registration of motor vehicles. Section 22 thereunder prohibits persons driving any motor vehicle in any public place or in any other place for the purpose of carrying passengers or goods unless the vehicle is registered. Section 22 thus restricts absolutely the driving of motor vehicles at public places unless they are registered. Registration is a pre-condition even to take the vehicle to any public place. Non-registration is thus a threshold bar.
Chapter IV contains provisions providing for grant of permits and control of motor vehicles. Section 42 thereunder prohibits the owner of transport vehicle from using it or permitting its use in any public place save in accordance with the conditions of a permit granted to it. The word 'permit' is defined under Section 2(20) to mean :
'The document issued by the Commission or a State or Regional Transport Authority authorising the use of a transport vehicle as a contract carriage, or stage carriage or authorising the owner as a private carrier or public carrier to use such vehicle.'
The scheme provided under Chapter IV is that a vehicle cannot be used as transport vehicle in any public place without permit and its use must be strictly in accordance with the conditions of a permit. In other words, besides registration as required under Chapter III, a transport vehicle must have a permit before it could be used in any public place. Section 2(33) defines 'transport vehicle' to mean, 'a public service vehicle or a goods vehicle'. The use of both these categories is barred without a permit. But that does not mean that a permit is also necessary for registration of a transport vehicle. There is no such legislative communication express or implied in Chapter III. There is an accurate line of demarcation between Chapter III and Chapter IV. Chapter III is exhaustive and independent of and not controlled by Chap. IV of the Act.
12. From this analysis, it becomes clear that if a contract carriage is constructed or adapted or equipped and maintained in accordance with the specifications prescribed by the State Government under Notification issued under Section 63(7) of the Act, the Registering Authority shall not refuse its registration as a tourist vehicle. He has no authority to say that a tourist vehicle should be registered only as an omnibus.
Nor there is any prohibition under the Karnataka Contract Carriages (Acquisition) Act, 1976 for registering a tourist vehicle. That Act was intended to acquire the then existing contract carriages and has nothing to do with the registration of contract carriages or tourist vehicles under the Motor Vehicles Act.
13. The next contention urged for the respondent in support of the impugned endorsement rested on the tax liability of the vehicle in question. It was urged that any registered transport vehicle without a permit attracts the tax liability payable in respect of an omnibus and therefore the tourist vehicle without a permit could be registered only as an omnibus. This contention, if I may say so, is like the proverbial statement 'putting the cart before the horse.' The tax at the rates specified under the Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1957 is leviable on all motor vehicles suitable for use on roads. That is clear from Section 3 of the Motor Vehicles Taxation Act.
'3. Levy of tax. - (1) A tax at the rates specified in Part A of the Schedule shall be levied on all motor vehicles suitable for use on roads.
Explanation. - A motor vehicle of which the certificate of registration is current shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to be a vehicle suitable for use on roads.'
A motor vehicle which has not been registered cannot be said to be suitable for use on roads. We have already seen that Section 22 of the Motor Vehicles Act prohibits the driving of motor vehicles at public places unless they are registered. The vehicle could be used or deemed suitable for use only when the certificate of registration is current. The certificate of registration is granted only under the Motor Vehicles Act and not under the Taxation Act. The respondent being the same authority under both the enactments appears to have gone beyond the scope of the Taxation Act for classifying the petitioner's vehicle for the purpose of its registration.
14. In the result, the writ petition is allowed; a direction shall issue to the respondent to register forthwith the vehicle of the petitioner as a tourist vehicle.
15. The petitioner is entitled to his costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 150/-.
16. Petition allowed.