The Supreme Court of India, through a two judge bench, has just overturned a Kerala High Court judgment, which had ruled that ‘structural alteration’ of a vehicle was permissible. The Supreme Court has now ruled that any modification of the vehicle that varies with the manufacturer’s original specification (as noted in the Registration Certificate) is illegal.
Here’s what the Supreme Court’s judgment that overturns the Kerala High Court judgment says,
In our considered opinion the Division Bench in the impugned judgment of the High Court of Kerala has failed to give effect to the provisions contained in section 52(1) and has emphasized only on the Rules. As such, the decision rendered by the Division Bench cannot be said to be laying down the law correctly. The Rules are subservient to the provisions of the Act and particulars in certificate of registration can also be changed except to the extent of the entries made in the same as per the specifications originally made by the manufacturer. Circular No.7/2006 is also to be read in that spirit. Authorities to act accordingly.
What does it imply?
According to the Supreme Court’s judgment, even modifications such as wider tyres, bigger alloy wheels and louder horns (which deviate from the manufacturer’s specifications) is not legal. This can have wide ramifications for the car modification/accessories industry if law enforcement agencies begin implementing the court’s judgment seriously.
However, it’s likely to take a while before the government notifies state transport departments about the Supreme Court judgment. Once that happens, it remains to be seen how effectively the transport departments and law enforcement machinery of various states deal with modified vehicles. Once the transport department and traffic police departments become aware of the Supreme Court judgment, people modifying their vehicles may get into trouble with the law .
Is this judgment something new?
Yes. While the Kerala High Court judgment allowed modifications to a vehicle if it was expressly noted in the Registration Certificate, the latest judgment from the Supreme Court nullifies this. The Supreme Court says that if the modification varies with the stock specifications of the vehicle (as detailed in the RC), even getting the modification endorsed on the RC book won’t make it legal.
The car and motorcycle accessory industry in India is quite large. So, there’s a chance that accessory makers and car modifiers lobby with the government and get the motor vehicles act amended to allow a certain degree of modification. If and when this happens, slight modifications may still be permissible. This will allow accessory makers to be in business while ensuring that modified vehicles don’t go overboard with unsafe modifications. Regulation is the key, and we hope that the Government wakes up to the Supreme Court judgment and makes necessary changes.