The Bombay High Court today said the Maharashtra government’s practice of issuing fitness certificates to private vehicles without conducting an independent test was illegal and in breach of its previous orders.
Therefore, the state government must take a decision on amending its rules and circulars on the issue and inform the court of its decision, a bench of justices A S Oka and R I Chagla said.
The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Shrikant Karve, a Right to Information (RTI) activist from Pune.
Karve alleged that officials at various regional transport offices (RTOs) across the state had been granting fake fitness certificates, or registration certificates, to private as well as transport vehicles without subjecting the vehicles to mandatory fitness tests first.
On a previous hearing, another bench led by Justice Oka had held that since under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, the registration of vehicles is treated as valid only if it had a valid certificate of fitness, such vehicles that did not have a fitness certificate must be deemed as unregistered, and thus, not permitted to be driven at all.
However, the court was informed recently that the Maharashtra government had been granting registration to new vehicles without the fitness certificate.
The state’s counsel, Abhinandan Vagyani, had told the court that this was being done since all new vehicles were already checked for fitness by the manufacturers before delivery.
The bench, however, held today that the state’s stand was contrary to provisions of the law, and hence, illegal.
A fitness certificate is an official document certifying that the holder’s vehicle is fit for being driven in public places.
As per the Motor Vehicles Act, a vehicle must have a fitness certificate issued by the manufacturer, and also, another fitness certificate issued by the state RTO authorities after the inspection of its condition, its pollution certificate, tax, insurance, and other such details.
“Since under the Act, the registration of vehicle is treated as valid only if it has valid certificate of fitness from the manufacturer and the inspecting authority, the state’s stand that a vehicle can be granted registration merely on the basis of the date of its manufacture is illegal,” the high court said.
“It (the state’s stand) is also in breach of the law and the previous orders of this court,” it further said.
The bench held that in granting new registration certificates without proper fitness certificates and merely on the basis of the manufacturers’ certificates, the state was harming the interest of several people.
The court has now directed the state to take a decision on amending its current practice in view of its observations, by April 25 this year.