Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Mohan Lal, JJ., directed the Union government to implement mandatory Vehicle Location Tracking Devices and Panic Button for all public service vehicles in the tune of Rule 125-H of Motor Vehicles Rules. The Bench remarked,
“It goes without saying that the provisions of Section 136A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and the Rule 125-H have to be complied with in their letter and spirit. The exemption granted by the Government was limited in a period of time and has since expired.”
The issue in the instant appeal was one pertaining to implementation of the statutory provision incorporated in the Motor Vehicles Rules by way of insertion of 125-H, which makes it mandatory inter alia for all public service vehicles to have Vehicle Location Tracking Devices and Panic Button. The amendment was incorporated in the year 2016 and the same was to come into force with effect from 01-04-2018. However, by virtue of notification dated 25-10-2018, the Government in exercise of powers conferred under sub-Section (3) of Section 110 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and in supersession of the notification of the Government of India dated 18-04-2018 exempted up to 01-01-2019 all public service vehicles from the provisions of clause (k) of sub-Section 1 of Section 110 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
The Government in the UT of J&K after the period of exemption was over, issued a circular towards implementation of the rules 125-H. However, as certain organizations involved in the transport business agitated the matter, pursuant to which a decision was taken to grant exemption in issuing the fitness certificates to commercial vehicles without GPS/VTS and Panic Button, till a Committee in this behalf submitted its recommendation/report for consideration by the Government. Noticeably, the Committee so constituted had not given any report for or against the installation of the aforementioned devices, which were stated to be installed mandatorily in view of the provisions of 125-H.
Contention of the Appellant
The petitioner-appellant, who was an authorized dealer for a company, M/s Rosmerta, which was in the business of providing Vehicle Location Tracking Device and the Panic Button etc. filed a petition claiming that it had been duly empanelled by the Transport Department and that the decision to defer the installation of the requisite tracking devices was causing prejudice to its business interest.
Findings of the Single Bench
The writ Court opined that the petitioner-appellant had only been an agent for one of the firms shortlisted for supply of the requisite equipment and no specific orders as such had been placed by any of the firms shortlisted (enlisted) for the purpose, as the Government had only shortlisted the firms as the product manufactured by them was compatible with the entire system, which was put in place for tracking the movements of commercial vehicles. It was, therefore, held that the petitioner could neither raise the claim of promissory estoppel or legitimate expectation against the State, as the State had not promised anything to the petitioner.
The writ Court, therefore, declined to interfere in the petition on the issue of locus standi of the petitioner. However, while disposing of the petition, the writ Court directed the Transport Commissioner to ensure that the issue, which was before the Committee is taken to its logical conclusion by resolving the difficulties, so that the mandate of law is implemented.
Opinion and Analysis
Considering the stand of the UT, that it was already in the process of setting up of Control Centre, wherefrom all the vehicles can be monitored and the data received and secured, the Bench reminded that the official respondents were still under the statutory obligation to ensure that the needful is done without any undue delay. As the Single Judge had already directed the respondents to ensure that the issue is taken to its logical conclusion by resolving the difficulties, so that the mandate of law is implemented, the Bench opined that there was conflict in the direction that had been issued by the Single Judge as the ultimate object of the petitioner-appellant was to highlight the issue of non-implementation of the provisions of Section 136A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and the Rule 125- H and the various circulars issued by the Central Government in that regard.
In the light of the above, the Bench opined that the impugned judgment did not suffer from any illegality and deserved no interference. The appeal was declared to be without merit and was accordingly dismissed. [Rallidae Tech. Private Ltd. v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine J&K 978 , 01-12-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For the Appellant: Shivani Jalali, Advocate
For Union of India: Adarsh Bhagat, GA