Fitness certificate to vehicle without independent test illegal: Bombay High Court

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.

Ban on tint films in vehicles: Next hearing on July 19

A division bench of Supreme Court has directed that all review and impleading petitions pertaining to the ban on use of tint films on four wheelers be posted for hearing on July 19.

 The Car Owners and Consumers’ Association (COCA) here had filed a review and impleading application in the first week of July.

 The bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar has said that all applications will be bunched together and heard on Thursday next.

 Advocate Padma Prasad Hegde, who filed the application, told that the apex court banned tint films on the basis of a PIL filed by Avishek Goenka without hearing other parties involved. There are lakhs of consumers and car owners who use these films. They were not heard at the time of passing the order. The matter should have been given wide publicity before passing the order,” he said.

 A bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar went by the limits prescribed in the MV Act and said anything beyond the visual light transmission (VLT) limit of 70% for the front and rear windshields and 50% for the side windows would be punishable.

 Hegde noted that denying application of tint film, where the VLT between the manufactured glass and tint film is same, is unreasonable. Manufactured glass with tint is expensive and not all can afford it,” he contended.

 The decision came on a PIL filed by Avishek Goenka, who had complained that cars with black film on window panes were being increasingly used for crimes, including sexual assault of women. Hegde said he will place all facts on record before the court and will pray for modification of that order so that tint with prescribed VLT should be allowed.