1. The accused's licence for driving a car expired on the 10th December, 1940. On the 12th December, 1940, an unfortunate accident occurred in which the accused ran over and killed a child. He at once applied for a renewal of his licence, which was granted. He was subsequently prosecuted for driving without a licence and was convicted by the Sub-Magistrate, Madura Town, because on the date on which the accident occurred he had no effective licence. The matter was taken in appeal to the First Class Magistrate of Madura, who set aside the conviction and acquitted the accused on the ground that the subsequent renewal dated back to the 10th December, 1940, and that the accused must therefore be deemed to have had an effective licence on the 12th December, 1940.
2. As the licence of the accused expired on the 10th December, 1940, and he had no licence on the 12th December, 1940, he contravened the provisions of Section 3 (1) of Act IV of 1939, which says that no person shall drive a motor vehicle without an effective licence. It is difficult to see how anything that the accused did after that date can cancel the offence committed before he obtained a renewal. Section 11 is however said to have that remarkable effect. Section 11 (1) gives a licensing authority power to renew a licence. Sub-section (2) sets out the method to be adopted for obtaining a renewal. Sub-section (3) deals with the fiscal aspect of the application for renewal and states that the fee for the renewal of a licence, if the application is made previous to or within fifteen days subsequent to the date of the expiration of the licence shall be three rupees; if after that date, five rupees. It is argued that Sub-section (3) of Section 11 gives fifteen days of grace within which period it is unnecessary to apply for a licence. It is difficult however to accept that argument, because, firstly, this sub-section deals only with the amount to be paid for a renewal of a licence and, secondly, the fifteen days is merely the period within which the renewal fee is limited to three rupees. A person is at liberty to apply for a renewal of his licence not merely within fifteen days but at any time subsequent to the expiry of the licence, with the proviso that if he makes his application beyond fifteen days after the expiration of the period of the licence he has to pay five rupees instead of three rupees. There is no limit at all set to the period within which he need apply for a renewal of the licence; so that if the argument of Mr. Sesha Aiyangar is sound, there is an unlimited period of grace within which a person can apply for a renewal of a licence; and no person could ever be convicted for offending against Section 3 (1) of the Act, unless the licensing authority became aware that the applicant had been driving without a licence and refused to renew the licence on that ground. The argument of the learned advocate for the respondent is based on the fact that when a licence is renewed, it dates back to the date of the expiry of the old licence. The reason for that is presumably that if a person wishes to have the benefit of a renewal, with its lower fee and absence of formalities, he must be prepared to pay from the date of expiry of the old licence. A renewal cannot be regarded as a licence to infringe at pleasure another provision of the Act or as a grant of pardon by the licensing authority to one who has broken the law. This sub-section nevertheless serves a real need; because it does not force a person who desires a renewal to do so at once if he has no intention of driving for some time.
3. I am therefore satisfied that the accused contravened the provisions of Section 3 of Act IV of 1939, and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 112 of the Act. The order of acquittal is consequently set aside and the accused convicted.
4. The accused has been holding a driver's licence for a large number of years. He says that in the past he has always taken great care to apply for a renewal of his licence before the term has expired and that by inadvertence he had not noticed that the term for which the licence was effective had expired. I see no reason to doubt the truth of these statements; and so I think it will be sufficient under the circumstances if the accused is given a nominal sentence and ordered to pay a fine of one rupee.