Kerala High Court: In a suo motu cognizance of the case relating to the use of contract carriages vehicles that were involved in major accidents, posing potential threat to the safety of the passengers and other road users, the division bench of Anil K.Narendran and P.G. Ajithkumar, JJ. has directed the respondents to prohibit the use of contract carriages and other transport vehicles in public places, flouting the safety standards, in strict compliance of the directions contained in the order dated 26.05.2022.
The Court noted that for the last few months several contract carriages were involved in major accidents, in which the passengers in those vehicles and other road users sustained serious/fatal injuries, and thus, directed the respondents to take necessary steps to ensure strict compliance of the directions contained in the order dated 26.05.2022 in Suo Motu v. State of Kerala, 2022 SCC OnLine Ker 2906. and order dated 10.01.2022 in Suo Motu v. State of Kerala, 2022 SCC OnLine Ker 1105, preventing the use of contract carriages and other transport vehicles in public places that flout the safety standards, like replacing the prototype approved lights, and reflectors with multi-colored LED/laser/neon lights, flashlights, etc.; having high-power audio systems producing loud sound; having multi-colored LED/laser/neon lights and booster amplifiers, mixing up of AC and DC power supply, placing/hanging various objects in front of the windscreen etc. However, despite the directions contained in the order, the Enforcement Officers under the Transport Commissioner and the Police Officers are not taking earnest efforts to ensure strict enforcement of the provisions under the Motor Vehicles Act and the Rules and Regulations made thereunder.
The Court viewed that in the order dated 30.08.2022, the Court has made it clear that the inaction on the part of the Enforcement Officers in the Motor Vehicles Department and the Police in taking action against motor vehicles flouting the safety standards regarding the lighting and light signaling devices and the standards prescribed in relation to noise control, shall be taken serious note of. Further, the Assistant Solicitor General was directed to get instructions from the Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways as to the action that can be taken against the vloggers and others, who are uploading videos in ‘YouTube’ and other online platforms, promoting the use of motor vehicles that are flouting the safety standards on public place and posing potential threat to the safety of passengers and other road users.
The Court took note of the motor accident that occurred in Thrissur District involving a contract carriage carrying school students, wherein 9 people sustained fatal injuries. Further, after perusal of the video clippings of the contract carriage, the Court viewed that it is explicitly clear that the contract carriage in question was used in public place flouting the prescribed safety standards, as the name of the contract carriage is written in the middle of the windscreen above the level of the dashboard, thereby obstructing the clear vision of the driver; the vehicle was fitted with multi-toned horn giving a succession of different notes, in violation of sub-rule (2) of Rule 119 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, further the passenger cabin is fitted with multi-colored LED lights, and the vehicle was fitted with high-power audio system producing loud sound, impairing the hearing of the driver and the passengers, and causing distraction to other road users.
Moreover, it was observed that even after the orders of this Court various vloggers are posting such promotion videos/posts in ‘YouTube’ and other online platforms.
Thus, the Court directed the Transport Commissioner to take colour photographs and video clippings of the exterior body, driver cabin and passenger cabin of the contract carriage and of the bus involved in the accident, and to produce it with the accident report of both the vehicles, and the Registrar General was directed to obtain a copy of the online news video clipping taken at the time of commencement of journey by the school students. Further, the respondents were directed to prohibit the use of contract carriages and other transport vehicles in public places, flouting the safety standards, in strict compliance of the directions contained in Suo Motu v. State of Kerala, 2022 SCC OnLine Ker 2906, that laid down that any person who drives, causes or allows to be driven in a public place such a contract carriage or other transport vehicle shall be proceeded against under Section 190(2) of the Motor Vehicles Act (‘MV Act’) and the driving licence held by the driver of such vehicle shall be forwarded to the licensing authority for disqualification or revocation proceedings under Section 19 of the MV Act. Further, the certificate of fitness granted to such transport vehicle shall be cancelled by the prescribed authority, in accordance with the provisions under Section 56(4) of the MV Act.
The matter will next be taken up on 10.10.2022
[Suo motu v. State of Kerala, 2022 SCC OnLine Ker 4898, decided on 06.10.2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Advocate G. Biju,
Advocate N. Raghuraj (Amicus curiae)
Deputy Solicitor General of India S.Manu