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Nelson Vs. Regional Transport Officer - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtKerala High Court
Decided On
Case NumberOriginal Petn. No. 3557 of 1972
Judge
Reported inAIR1977Ker16
ActsMotor Vehicles Act, 1939 - Sections 33(1)
AppellantNelson
RespondentRegional Transport Officer
Appellant Advocate M.A. Manhu and; V.V. Narayanan, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateGovt. Pleader
DispositionPetition dismissed
Cases ReferredHajiM. Abdulla v. Regional Transport Officer
Excerpt:
.....for suspension of the cer-tificate of registration of the vehicle and by conferring power upon the registering authority and other prescribed authorities to proceed against the concerned vehicle by suspending its certificate of registration where the authority after giving the owner an opportunity of making representation finds for reasons to be recorded in writing that there is reason to believe that the vehicle has been or is being used for hire or reward without a valid permit. as al-ready observed, the liability for suspension of the certificate of registration of the vehicle accrues under the section when the condition mentioned in clause (b) is satisfied and it is not dependent on the existence of any mens rea on the part of the registered owner and the said liability will not be..........consisting of six persons. a charge memo dated 26-9-1970 was issued to the petitioner by the registering authority (regional transport officer), ernakulam--1st respondent calling upon the petitioner to show cause within seven days why the registration certificate of the car should not be suspended under section 33 (1) (b) of the motor vehicles act, 1939 (here-inafter referred to as the act) on the ground of unauthorised user of the vehi-cle for carrying passengers on hire without a permit. the petitioner acknowledg-ed the receipt of the charge memo on 2-11-1970 and he claims to have sent an explanation, of which ext b-1 is alleged to be a copy, but the said paper does not appear to have been received in the office of the 1st respondent. the 1st respondent therefore proceeded to.....
Judgment:

Balakrishna Eradi, J.

1. The Writ petitioner purchased a Motor-car KLE 97 from one T. K. Surendran, Mat-tancherry, Cochin on 10-10-1969. While the vehicle was under the ownership of Shri Surendran it had been stopped and checked by the Assistant Motor Vehicle Inspector, Quilon on 6-6-1969 at 4-35 P.M. at Chavara when it was found that it was conveying for hire without permit one Shri Kunji Bai and his family consisting of six persons. A charge memo dated 26-9-1970 was issued to the petitioner by the Registering Authority (Regional Transport Officer), Ernakulam--1st respondent calling upon the petitioner to show cause within seven days why the registration certificate of the car should not be suspended under Section 33 (1) (b) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 (here-inafter referred to as the Act) on the ground of unauthorised user of the vehi-cle for carrying passengers on hire without a permit. The petitioner acknowledg-ed the receipt of the charge memo on 2-11-1970 and he claims to have sent an explanation, of which Ext B-1 is alleged to be a copy, but the said paper does not appear to have been received in the office of the 1st respondent. The 1st respondent therefore proceeded to dispose of the matter ex parte and passed the order Ext. P-2 dated 15th October, 1974 suspending the registration certificate of the car for a period of four months from 20-11-1971 and the petitioner was directed by the said order to surrender the registration certificate of the vehicle forth-with to the office of the lst respondent. Against the said order passed by the 1st respondent the petitioner preferred an appeal before the District Collector, Ernakulam (2nd respondent). The main contention put forward by the petitioner in the appeal was that at the time of the purchase of the vehicle from the previous owner the petitioner was not aware of the fact that the vehicle had been involved in the commission of an offence under Section 33 (1) (b) of the Act and since the registration in, respect of the vehicle had been transferred in the peti-tioner's favour by the Regional Trans-port Officer without any objection it was not thereafter open to the 1st respondent to pursue any action against the new owner for suspending the registration of the vehicle. The said contention was re-jected by the 2nd respondent and the appeal filed by the petitioner was dis-missed by him as per the order Ext. P-3 dated 21-6-1972. The petitioner has brought this writ petition seeking to quash Exts. P-2 and P-3.

2. It was contended before us by the counsel appearing for the petitioner that Section 33 (1) (b) of the Act contem-plates action being taken thereunder only against the person who was the registered owner of the vehicle at the time when the vehicle was used for hire or reward without a valid permit and that if the ownership of the vehicle has changed hands subsequent to the com-mission of the said offence a bona fide transferee who has purchased th vehi-cle for value without any notice of the fact of commission ofsuch offence is not liable to be proceeded against under the said provision. In support of the said contention counsel for the petitioner relied very strongly on the following observations of Vaidialingam, J. in Haji M. Abdulla v. Regional Transport Officer, Kozhikode, 1964 Ker LT 112:--

'In my view, in the circumstances of this case, it is absolutely necessary in the interests of justice that persons like the petitioner, who claim to have obtained transfer of the vehicle bona fide and for value, without any knowledge that proceedings have been initiated as against them, must certainly be able to satisfy the authorities at least prima facie that they are persons who have purchased the vehicles bona fide, and for value and have no knowledge of any offence having been committed by the transferor or of any proceedings being pending as against him. Therefore if the petitioner is able to prima facie satisfy the authorities on this aspect, in my view the proceedings, which are sought to be taken for suspending the registra-tion certificate of the vehicle in question--which will really be punishment asagainst the petitioner--will have to bedropped.'

3. It is contended by the Government Pleader appearing on behalf of the respondents that under Section 33 (1) (b) of the Act the registration certificate of a vehicle is liable to be suspended on its being found by the concerned statutory authority that the vehicle has been used for hire or reward without a valid per-mit and this liability will not be in any way affected if the ownership of the vehicle is subsequently transferred to another person and that the bona fides of the purchaser or the lack of knowledge on his part about the antecedent wrongful use of the Vehicle for hire or reward is therefore not of any relevance in a pro-ceeding under Section 33 (1) (b). On this basis it is submitted by the Government Pleader that the above observations in Haji M. Abdulla v. Regional : Transport Officer, Kozhikode, 1964 Ker LT 112, cannot be regarded as laying down cor-rect law. We find that there is force in this contention.

4. Section 33 of the Act reads.--

'33. Suspension of resigration-

(1) If any registering authority or other prescribed authority has reason to believe that any motor vehicle within its jurisdiction--

(a) is in such a condition that its use in a public place would constitute a danger to the public, or that it fails to comply with the requirements of Chapter V or of the rules made thereunder, or

(b) has been, or is being used forhire or reward without a valid permit forbeing used, as such, the authority may, after giving theowner an opportunity of making any re-presentation he may wish to make (bysending to the owner a notice by registered post acknowledgement due at hisaddress entered in the certificate of registration), for reasons to be recorded inwriting, suspend the certificate of registration of the vehicle,--

(i) in any case failing under clause (a), until the defects are remedied to its satisfaction; and

(ii) in any case falling under clause (b), for a period not exceeding fourmonths.

(2) An authority other than a registering authority shall, when making asuspension order under Sub-section (1),intimate in writing the fact of suspensionand the reasons therefor to the registering authority within whose jurisdiction the vehicle is at the time of the sus-pension.

(3) Where the registration of a motor vehicle has been suspended under sub-section (1) for a continuous period of not less than one month, the registering authority, within whose jurisdiction the vehicle was when the registration was suspended, shall if it is not the original registering authority inform that authority of the suspension; and when the sus-pension has continued without interrupttion for a period of not less than six months, the registering; authority with-in whose jurisdiction the vehicle was when the registration was suspended, may, if it is the original registering au-thority, cancel the registration, and if it is not the original registering authority, shall forward the certificate of registrar tion to that authority which may cancel it forthwith.

(4) The owner of a motor vehicle shall, on the demand of a registering au-thority, or other prescribed authority which has suspended the certificate of registration of the vehicle under this section, surrender the certificate of registration and any token or card issued to authorise the use of the vehicle in a public place.

(5) A certificate of registration and any token or card surrendered under sub-section (4) shall be returned to theowner when the order suspending regis-tration has been rescinded and not before.'

The section invests the registering authority or other prescribed authority with the power to suspend the certificate of registration of any motor vehicle within its jurisdiction if it has reason to be-lieve that the vehicle is in such a condi-tion that its use in a public place would constitute a danger to the public, or that it fails to comply with the requirements laid down in Chapter V of the Act and the Rules framed thereunder regarding the construction, equipment and main-tenance of motor vehicles or that it has been or is being used for hire or reward without a valid permit authorising such user. If any one of these jurisdictional conditions is satisfied the registration of the vehicle is liable to be suspended. The exercise of the said power is not made dependent upon the existence, of any mens rea on the part of the person who is the registered owner of the vehicle at the time when the authority takes the action under the section. For the pur-pose of taking action under clause (a) all that is relevant to be considered by the authority is whether the condition of the vehicle is such that it fails to comply with the requirements) of Chapter V relating to the equipment and maintenance of motor vehicles or its use in a public place would constitute a danger to the public. Likewise, for taking action under clause (b) of Sub-section (1) all that the registering authority has to investigate and determine is whether the vehicle has been or is being used for hire or rreward without a valid permit. Once the autho-rity finds that there is reason to believe that a vehicle has been used for hire or reward without a valid permit the juris-dictional condition is satisfied and the registration of the vehicle is liable to be suspended. The section enjoins that a determination of the aforesaid question should, however, be made by the autho-rity only after giving the owner an opportunity of making any representation he may wish to make. Having regard to the limited nature and scope of the en-quiry that is envisaged under the section any representation to be made by the owner of the vehicle can only be in respect of the question whether, as a matter of fact, the vehicle had been used for hire or reward without a valid permit. The liability for suspension of the certificate of registration gets automatically attracted when the factum of such wrongful user of the vehicle for hire or reward is either admitted or proved to the satisfaction of the authority exercising the power Under the section. Once the condition mentioned in clause (b) is found to exist there is an absolute liability for suspension of the certificate of registration of the vehicle, irrespective of any question as to whether the registered owner had knowledge about the Wrongful user of the vehicle for hire or reward without permit. Obviously, the intention of Parliament in enacting Section 33 (1) (b) of the Act is that cases of unauthorised user of motor vehicles for hire or reward without permit should be effectively dealt with by creating an ab-solute liability for suspension of the cer-tificate of registration of the vehicle and by conferring power upon the registering authority and other prescribed authorities to proceed against the concerned vehicle by suspending its certificate of registration where the authority after giving the owner an opportunity of making representation finds for reasons to be recorded in writing that there is reason to believe that the vehicle has been or is being used for hire or reward without a valid permit. Such being the scheme of the section it will be no defence at all on the part of the registered owner to say that the ownership of the vehicle has been acquired by him only on a date subsequent to the wrongful user and that he is bona fide transferee for value with-out notice of the pendency of the proceedings initiated against the prior owner under Section 33 (1) (b) of the Act. As al-ready observed, the liability for suspension of the certificate of registration of the vehicle accrues under the section when the condition mentioned in clause (b) is satisfied and it is not dependent on the existence of any mens rea on the part of the registered owner and the said liability will not be affected by any trans-fer. In case of transfer of ownership of a vehicle the transferee will get it only subject to the liability for its being pro-ceeded against under the section in res-pect of any offence that has been already committed prior to the transfer. Hence the question whether the transferee, is a bona fide purchaser without notice of the pendency of the proceeding is not of any relevance in determining the liability for suspension of the certificate of registration of the vehicle under Section 33 (1) (b) of the Act. With respect, we hold that the contrary view expressed in HajiM. Abdulla v. Regional Transport Officer,Kozhikode, 1964 Ker LT 112, cannot beregarded as correct.

5. The order Ext. P-2 was passed by the 1st respondent only after extending to the petitioner due opportunity of making his representation. Though the petitioner has put forward a plea that he had filed a representation of which Ext. P-1 is said to be a copy, we see no reason to doubt the correctness of the statement made by the first respondent in the order Ext. P-2 that no such explanation had been received in his office. That apart, the petitioner has no case that as a 'matter of fact, the vehicle in question had not been used for carrying passengers for hire without permit on 6-6-1969 as stated in the check report of the Assistant Motor Vehicles Inspector, Quilon. Both the registering authority as well as the District Collector before whom the petitioner was represented by an advo-cate have, on a consideration of the materials on record, come to the conclusion that the wrongful user of the vehicle for hire without permit was fully proved. There is no scope at all for any interference by this court with the said finding of fact.

6. The original petition thereforefails and is dismissed but in the circumstances we do not make any order as tocosts.


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