1. The accused entered into a contract with the District Forest Officer of the Nilgiris to convey quantities of sandalwood from the Seigur Range in the Nilgiris District to Satyamangalam in the Coimbatore District. For the purpose of fulfilling his contract, he used his registered private lorry and on one of his trips to Coimbatore, the lorry was stopped within that district by the Sub-Inspector of Police, Annui, and when the driver was asked for the 'G' permit, it was found that he had none; and he and the owner were therefore charged by the Coimbatore Police Under Section 16, Motor Vehicles Act, The owner was convicted by the Sub-Magistrate of Mettupalayam. In appeal the Sub-divisional Magistrate of Coimbatore held that the car was actually let for hire within the Nilgiris District and that therefore the Courts of Coimbatore District had no jurisdiction to try the offence, the Sub-divisional Magistrate holding that Under Rule 30(a), the motor vehicle is prohibited from being let for hire without a 'G' permit and as the accuser's lorry was let for hire in the Nilgiris he could not be tried at Coimbatore. He therefore allowed the appeal and acquitted the accused.
2. The Crown have appealed against this acquittal. The order of acquittal is sought to be sustained in this Court not on the ground of jurisdiction, but on the ground that the Legislature did not intend to compel the owner of a private vehicle, who ordinarily uses his vehicle for his own purposes, to take out a license merely because on one occasion he conveyed goods for hire in his private lorry. It may be true that Rule 30(a) was primarily intended to apply to motor vehicles which are used for the express purpose of letting for hire; but even if a motor vehicle is used only once for such a purpose, then on that one occasion it is nonetheless let for hire because the owner does not ordinarily use his lorry for purposes of reward. A number of cases have come before this Court in which the owners of private cars who acquired their cars for their own professional purposes have been convicted because they have received a reward from persons carried in their cars. It has been held that by so doing the owner was guilty of letting the car for hire. Similarly, if a person undertakes to convey goods for reward in his private vehicle, he has let that vehicle for hire and so commits an offence Under Rule 30(1), Motor Vehicles Rules. The conviction of the Sub-Magistrate of Mettupalayam was therefore right and the order of the Sub-divisional Magistrate, Coimbatore, allowing the appeal and acquitting the accused was wrong. The Government appeal will therefore be allowed.
3. It is urged that this is a technical offence, in that the accused did not willfully infringe any rule and probably honestly believed that he was undergo obligation to take out a 'G' permit; and that he should therefore be fined only some nominal sum. It seems probable however that the amount of fine that has been levied from him is appreciably less than the amount he would have been compelled to pay for taking out a 'G' permit for the period for which he was conveying sandalwood from the Seigur Range to Satyamangalam. In restoring the order of the Sub-Magistrate, the fine inflicted by the Sub-Magistrate, will be re-imposed, not so much as a punishment for innocently infringing a technical rule, but as a sum to be paid to Government towards the loss of license fees.