In a recent case sue moto taken up by High Court of Kerala at Ernakulum the Court has addressed the issue of unauthorized modifications to motor vehicles, including contract carriages, stage carriages, and goods carriages via an order dated 31.05.2024. These modifications, which encompass the installation of multi-coloured LED lights, laser/neon lights, and other unauthorized light signalling devices, distract both the vehicle’s driver and other road users. The Judgment highlights how such modifications violate the safety standards prescribed in AIS-008, which pertains to the installation requirements of lighting and light-signalling devices for motor vehicles. These actions contravene Rule 278 of the Kerala Motor Vehicles Rules, which mandates that the driver’s vision must remain unobstructed. Furthermore, modifications to rearview mirrors and the removal of parabolic windscreen mirrors for the installation of sunshades increase safety risks for vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and cyclists. The Court noted that video content depicting these unauthorized alterations is frequently uploaded to online platforms such as YouTube, with recordings made inside moving vehicles, thereby disturbing the driver’s concentration and posing significant threats to public safety.

The Court also addressed the use of extensively modified vehicles in college campuses for auto shows and exhibitions, observing that non-roadworthy and altered vehicles are often showcased for drifting and similar performances. In its order dated 14.10.2022 in SSCR No.20 of 2021, the Court viewed videos uploaded by a vlogger showing such vehicles, brought into India through ‘Carnet’, which had undergone extensive modifications including unauthorized exhaust systems emitting fumes, thick smoke, and loud sounds. These vehicles, used for drifting and other performances, pose a clear threat to public safety, as evidenced by video content viewed by the Court. The judgment emphasizes that such vehicles violate safety standards, control of noise, and air pollution as prescribed in various statutes, necessitating strict enforcement of the relevant legal provisions.

In its order dated 28.10.2022, the Court underscored that any person who drives or allows a motor vehicle to be driven in any public place in violation of safety, noise, and air pollution standards prescribed under sub-section (2) of Section 190 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, shall be subject to penal consequences. These include imprisonment for a term extending to three months, fines up to ten thousand rupees, or both for the first offense, and up to six months imprisonment or similar fines for subsequent offenses. Furthermore, the driving license of such individuals should be suspended for three months as mandated by law. The judgment specifies that vehicles with unauthorized modifications, including lights and signalling devices flouting AIS-008 standards, are subject to registration cancellation under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. The Court directed that such vehicles must be presented before the jurisdictional Magistrate Court along with photographic and video evidence of the statutory violations for appropriate legal action.

The judgment also cited the order dated 25.08.2023 in SSCR No.20 of 2021, in which the Court emphasized that vehicles brought into India through Carnet, which are fitted with unauthorized modifications such as exhaust systems emitting fumes and loud sounds, wide tyres protruding out of wheel arches, and mudguards, cannot be permitted in public places. The Court reiterated the need for strict compliance with safety standards and directed the Transport Commissioner and State Police Chief to take stringent action against such violations. The Court further mandated that the driving license of drivers operating such vehicles be suspended for three months and forwarded to the licensing authority for disqualification or revocation proceedings under Section 19 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. Additionally, the judgment highlighted that vehicles used in public places with unauthorized modifications must be prosecuted, and such vehicles should be produced before the jurisdictional Magistrate Court with appropriate evidence.

Despite the clear directives issued by the Court, unauthorized and extensively modified vehicles continue to be used in public places, including college campuses for auto shows, posing ongoing threats to public safety. The judgment calls for the Transport Commissioner, through Enforcement Officers in the Motor Vehicles Department, and the State Police Chief, through District Police Chiefs, to enforce the legal provisions vigorously. The judgment mandates the imposition of fines on vehicle owners for each unauthorized alteration as per Section 182A(4) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, read with S.R.O.No.788/2019. It also directs the suspension or cancellation of registration certificates for vehicles with extensive modifications that pose safety risks. The Court emphasized the necessity for enforcement officers to collect video evidence of unauthorized alterations and the use of such vehicles in public places, particularly those uploaded by vloggers on online platforms, to initiate legal proceedings under sub-section (2) of Section 190 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. The judgment serves as a stern reminder of the legal obligations to maintain road safety and the serious consequences of unauthorized vehicle modifications. It underscores the need for strict enforcement of safety standards prescribed under AIS-008 and compliance with the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and the Kerala Motor Vehicles Rules. The Court’s directives aim to curb the use of unauthorized modifications that pose significant risks to public safety, ensuring that the responsible authorities take necessary actions to uphold the law and protect road users.

Laksh Verma (Trainee)

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