Bombay HC dismisses PIL filed by Auto Rickshaw and Bus Unions against levy of additional fee under MV Rules, 1989

Bombay High Court

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench headed by Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya, CJ.* and Arif S Doctor, J. dismissed the PIL filed by auto rickshaw and bus unions wherein they had questioned the levy of additional fee for renewal of driving license and renewal of registration certificate in case of motorcycles and certain other classes of non-transport vehicles under Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 as ultra vires of the rule making power of the Central Government, and the levy as being a penalty in disguise. The Court held that Section 211 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, if interpreted appropriately, vests power with the Central Government to make rules for the levy of additional fee. The Court further held that these fees are being levied for processing delayed applications for renewals and changes to documents etc., and that they are not a masqueraded penalty.

Background

In the two petitions filed under Article 226 of the Constitution, the petitioners challenged Rules 32 and 81 of the Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 (“the Rules”), that provide for levy of additional fee on the application made for renewal of driving license post the prescribed grace period, the renewal of Certificate of Registration for non-transport vehicles; and in case of delayed submission of ‘No Objection Certificate’ (“NOC”) for the transfer of ownership and change of residence.

The issue that the Court had to consider was that , whether the levy of additional fee under the impugned Rules is ultra vires of Central Government’s rule making power under Section 211 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (“MV Act”); and whether the additional fee levied by the impugned Rules is a penalty in disguise.

Analysis and Decision

The Court analyzed S. 211 of the MV Act and said that it clearly empowers the Central Government to make Rules for levy of fee in the absence of any express provision. Further analysis of S.211 by the Court revealed that the Central Government is empowered to frame Rules for “any other purpose or matter involving the rendering of any service”.

The Court opined that, “Even though the acts listed in the earlier part of Section 211, for which fee can be levied, do not include the processing of delayed application for renewal of driving license or renewal of registration certificate, change of residence or transfer of ownership of vehicle, yet such acts to be performed by the authorities shall, in our opinion be covered within the meaning of the phrase ‘and for any other purpose or matter involving the rendering of any service’”. Therefore, the services disputed in the instant case are also within the powers vested with the Central Government to make Rules upon, thereby making them intra vires.

The Court however pointed out that occurrence of the phrase “notwithstanding the absence of any express provision to that effect” in Section 211 of MV Act may result in the Central Government being vested with unbridled power to make Rules prescribing for levy of certain fee. However, since the instant petitions did not challenge Section 211 of MV Act, hence the Court refrained from making any observation in this regard.

The Court referred to the case of Sona Chandi Oal Committee v. State of Maharashtra (2005) 2 SCC 345, wherein it was held that so far as regulatory fee is concerned, the services to be rendered is not a condition precedent and the same does not lose the character of a fee provided the fee so charged is not excessive.

The Court thus concluded that , the levy of additional fee cannot be said to be any kind of deterrence. By providing a provision for consideration of delayed applications for renewal of driving license, registration certificate of vehicle, change of residence and transfer of ownership of vehicle etc., the 1989 Rules provide a service to acquire the same.

Therefore, the Court held that the levy of additional is not a penalty, whether directly or in disguise. Resultantly, the PIL failed and was dismissed.

[‘K’ Savakash Auto Rickshaw Sangha v. Union of India, 2024 SCC OnLine Bom 970, decided on 02-04-2024]

*Judgment by Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya, Chief Justice, Bombay High Court


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Advocates for Petitioners: Vaibhav Kulkarni, Ruturaj Bathe, Mrunal Surana, and Suhas Deokar

Advocates for Respondents: RV Govilkar, Sr, Adv; DP Singh, Shaba Khan, PP Kakade, Government Pleader; OA Chandurkar, Addl Govt. Pleader and RA Salunkhe, AGP

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