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Can’t issue direction to authorities for acting contrary to statutory rules: HC

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Dismisses cab operators’ plea for exemption in having tracking devices on vehicles until govt sets up control centres for it

Srinagar: The High Court of J&K has dismissed a petition by a Sumo and Taxi Association, seeking exemption from the fitment of Vehicle Location Tracking Devices (VLTD) and Panic Buttons till appropriate infrastructure like Command and Control centers to monitor and track the vehicles is established in the Union Territory.

“From reading of the Rule 125-H (of the Central Motor vehicles Rules 1989), it is clear that all public service vehicles except two wheelers, three wheelers, E-rickshaw and a transport vehicle for which no permit is required under the Central Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, are required to be equipped with or fitted with VLTD and one or more Emergency Buttons,” a bench of Justice Sanjeev Kumar said.

The court said that no notification of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has been brought to its notice whereby the exemption to comply with Rule 125-H has been granted.

“Rather one would find a copy of minutes of meeting chaired by Transport Commissioner dated 1st April, 2022, whereby in respect of ‘installation of Vehicle Location Tracking Devices’ a decision has been taken to direct all the RTOs and ARTOs to ensure strict compliance of S.O No. 5453(E) dated 25th October, 2018 (calling for fitting vehicles with these devices),” the court said.

“It was also made clear that process of fitment VLTD and one or more Emergency Buttons, would be completed within a period of four months and the public service vehicle owners are free to choose or install VLTD and one or more Emergency Buttons of their choice from any of the manufacturers as long as it is type approved as per the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.”

This decision, the court said, was taken on 1st April, 2022, and the four month period granted has expired on 1st August, 2022.

The court said that it cannot issue a direction to the authorities for acting contrary to the statutory rules.

“It is true that the Government of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is empowered to grant exemption having regard to the relevant facts and circumstances and provide reasonable time to the petitioner to have their public service vehicles fitted with the requisite devices to comply with the Rule 125-H of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989,” the court said, adding, “This is, however, left to be determined by the competent authority having regard to the attending facts and circumstances.”

The Association — Green Valley Sumo and Taxi Stand  Union— had sought the exemption by submitting that despite their being a communication dated January 05, 2020, issued by Ministry of Roads, Transport and Highways, to all the Principal Secretaries and Transport Commissioners of States/Union Territories for formulating scheme for implementation of “Development, Customization, Deployment and Management” of state-wise vehicle tracking platform for safety and enforcement etc., the J&K Government has not so far framed any such scheme.

It had submitted that in absence of such a scheme, it cannot be compelled to equip their vehicles registered prior to December 31, 2018, with the VLTD and Emergency Panic Buttons.

It had claimed that their vehicles are due for issuance of the fitness certificates, but because of the inability to equip their vehicles with VLTD and Emergency Panic Buttons, the officials have declined to issue the certificate of fitness in their favour.

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