HC quashes J&K govt’s controversial circular on re-registration of vehicles
Srinagar: The circular issued by Regional Transport Officer (RTO) Kashmir asking people to re-register their vehicles bought and brought from outside Jammu and Kashmir, “is unnecessary and lacks authority”, the J&K High Court said Thursday as it quashed the said circular concluding that the life-time road tax paid at the time of purchase cannot be levied again.
Hearing two writ petitions by one Zahoor Ahmad Bhat and Irshad Hussain Munshi, the court quashed the circular saying “the impugned circular issued by RTO is unnecessary and lacks authority in warning the genuine owners of the vehicles as have outside registration and entered in the Union Territory of J&K”.
In its 28-page order, a division bench comprising Justices Ali Mohammad Magrey and Vinod Chatterji Koul said “making assignment of new registration mark compulsory is contrary to Rule 54 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989”.
The court, however, steered away from seizing the powers of the central government and the government of Jammu and Kashmir to deal with screening and verifying the validity and genuineness of documents of a vehicle, having outside registration that enter the precincts of J&K.
The respondents, according to the court, do possess the authority to mandate the people to re-register the vehicles bought and brought from outside J&K as have remained for a period exceeding 12 months in this newly carved out centrally-administered region.
“Assignment of new registration mark in these cases requires to be in tune with the application of Section 47. But for that some mechanism as agreed by the Principal Secretary to Government, Transport Department, is to be placed in vogue with due adherence to compliance of Section 47 of the Motor Vehicles Act,” directed the court.
It reiterated that if a vehicle is once registered in any state in India, it shall not be required to be registered again elsewhere in the country unless it has stayed in another state or union territory for a period of exceeding 12 months.
The court directed the respondents to have the compliance of Section 47 of the Act, read with Rule 54 of Central Motor Vehicles undertaken for assignment of new registration mark of the vehicles.
“We are inclined to quash the said impugned circular, but while doing so we do not by any stretch of imagination take away the powers of the central government or government of Jammu and Kashmir to deal with the eventuality of screening, scrutinising, verifying the validity or genuineness of documents of a vehicle, having outside registration and making entry in the union territory of J&K for whatever purpose be as a tourist, businessman or employee etc,” the bench said.
The court also said that it is not interfering with the powers of the transport authority to deal with cases, which fall under Section 50 of the Motor Vehicles Act (transferring of ownership). This matter, which falls under the application of Section 50, is not the subject in these writ petitions, it said.
The court said it has already noticed “the scheme of law, which provides for assignment of new registration mark but deem it proper to reiterate that if the vehicle once registered in any state in India, it shall not be required to be registered elsewhere in India.”
“But when the motor vehicle registered in one state, has been kept in another state for a period exceeding 12 months, the owner shall apply to the registering authority within whose jurisdiction the vehicle is for the assignment of new registration mark,” it said.
A life time tax that is levied at the point of registration of a vehicle in terms of Section 3 of the Motor Vehicles Act and it cannot be levied on a vehicle registered, merely on a presumption that a vehicle registered outside Jammu and Kashmir, has remained in the union territory for a period exceeding 12 months, the court said.
The controversial circular was issued by RTO Kashmir on 27th of March 2021. It directed the vehicle owners, who had purchased their vehicles from outside Jammu and Kashmir bearing outside registration marks to reregister them within 15 days or face action.
The petitioners who challenged this circular told the court that they had been harassed by the Police and the Transport department merely on the ground of having a Delhi registration number on their vehicles.
They submitted through their respective lawyers that Section 47 of the Motor Vehicles Act (MVA) reveals that the power and jurisdiction for assigning a new registration mark on a vehicle lies with the central government.
According to Section 47 of MVA assigning of a new registration mark is invoked when a vehicle has been removed from one state to another and has been kept there continuously for 12 months.
The petitioners told the court that the Police and Transport authorities have resorted to en-masse seizure of the vehicles under the garb of the circular.