In a rather surprising move, the Delhi High Court has decided to put a stay on the Centre’s notification that directed all states to take action against all the cars and SUVs that have been fitted with a bullbar. This order came from the bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar, who asked the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to re-examine this matter. Furthermore, it has ordered that no challans can be issued for the usage of bullbars till April 18, which is the next date of hearing.
“Under what power have you issued this notification? Under what law have you issued an advisory to the states to take penal action against the offenders? Till the next date, there would be a stay and no challans will be issued,” the bench said. The High Court went on to say that the Road Transport and Highway ministry hasn’t interpreted the Motor Vehicle Act properly and it needs to submit a detailed reply on this to the court. Earlier, in December last year, the Ministry had written to the Principal Secretaries, Secretaries and Commissioners, Transport of the states, saying “it is brought to your notice that the fitments of crash guards/ bull bar is in contravention of section 52 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and attracts penalty under section 190 and 191 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988”.
“Crash guards or bull bars on the vehicles pose serious safety concerns to the pedestrians as well as occupants of the vehicle. It is therefore requested that states may take strict action against the unauthorized fitment of crash guard/bull bar on the motor vehicles,” it had said.
Section 190 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 states that any person who drives or causes or allows to be driven, in any public place a motor vehicle, which violates the standards prescribed in relation to road safety, control of noise and air-pollution, shall be punishable for the first offence with a fine of Rs 1,000 and for any second or subsequent offence with a fine of Rs 2,000.
The Delhi High Court was hearing a plea of one Mohammed Arif, who is a manufacturer and dealer of bull bars and wants a stay on the ministry’s direction to the states to impose fine on the usage of bull bars. Arif has insisted that the Centre’s decision to ban bullbars has no legality as her is no law dealing with accessories like these. Furthermore, he says that Bullbars don’t fall within the purview of Section 52 of the Motor Vehicle Act as this act pertains to customizations made to the body of the vehicle and not to extra fitments.
Section 191 prescribes, “Whoever being an importer of or dealer in motor vehicles, sells or delivers or offers to sell or deliver a motor vehicle or trailer in such condition that the use thereof in a public place would be in contravention of Chapter VII or any rule made thereunder or alters the motor vehicle or trailer so as to render its conditions such that its use in a public place would be in contravention of Chapter VII or any rule made thereunder shall be punishable with fine which may extend to Rs 5,000.”
One needs to note here that the latest directive from the High Court is only a stay, which means that at best, it’s a temporary relief for bullbar users. The Government is very likely to put up a better defense in the next hearing. Also, if the court still decids to lift the ban on the usage of bullbars, the Government can always introduce an amendment in the Motor Vehicle Act to ban bullbars.