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SC Issues Contempt Notice To Central Government On HSRP Amendment

 

 

AJAY SHARMA v BRIJESH MEHROTRA

Contempt Petition 1787/2017

Hearing on 01.02.2019

 PRESS NOTE

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on 01.02.2019 issued a notice to the Central Government in an Application alleging contempt of the Orders passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in issuing Notifications dated 04.12.2018 and 06.12.2018 bearing Nos. GSR 1162 (E) and SO 6052 (E) respectively.

The said Notifications, as alleged by the Petitioner, are contrary to and therefore contemptuous of the Orders/Directions passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in various cases over a period of more than 10 years.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, from time to time, passed detailed directions to enable the statutory authorities to keep centralized control on the implementation of the HSRP scheme for affixation of Security Number Plates on motor vehicles.  Three orders (i.e. (i) order dated 08.12.2011 reported in (2012) 1 SCC 707; (ii) order dated 07.02.2012 reported in (2012) 4 SCC 568 and (iii) order dated 13.07.2016 reported in (2016) 14 SCC 72 all passed by this Hon’ble Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 510 of 2005, titled as “Maninderjit Singh Bitta v Union of India & Ors.”)  passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, essentially contained directions and guidelines to ensure that the “security” aspects of the policy on High Security Number Plates are preserved and to this end passed directions requiring that all activities relating to manufacturing, supplying and affixing of High Security Registration Plates ought to be carried out in a State by a single technically and financially competent manufacturer whose manufacturing facilities, embossing stations, books and documents are to be subject to strict and periodical scrutiny and inspection by the State Government, the Central Government, and the expert body/testing agencies.

The Notifications that have now been passed by the Central Government amend Rule 50 of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 and introduce the Motor Vehicles Order, 2018 replacing the old Motor Vehicles Order, 2001.

What is essentially conceived under the Amendment is that the Number Plates would be supplied through Auto-mobile manufacturers like Maruti, Hyundai etc. and affixed through their dealers; effectively doing away with the scope for single-point responsibility and accountability. While the Motor Vehicle manufacturers are ostensibly being made responsible for the entire process, in reality, such manufacturers are only formally responsible while the activities relating the manufacture, supply and affixation of High Security number plates would be carried out by different agencies. Under the system which is being replaced, the HSRP manufacturer selected by the State Government is not merely formally responsible but undertakes actual and de-facto responsibility by carrying out all activities relating to manufacturing, supply, and affixation of High Security Number Plates by itself.  

The present scheme turns the old scheme on its head, removing all important aspects of security and control of the government authorities over the manufacturers and suppliers of HSRP’s, as also control over security features of the High Security Registration Plates.

Further, the present scheme does not clearly lay down a process for implementation of the HSRP Scheme on existing vehicles. The affixation of HSRPs on such old/existing vehicles is the biggest challenge as there are Crores of Vehicles on the roads that are not affixed with the High Security Number Plates. The replacement of plates on such a large number of vehicles spread across the country can be carried out only in a planned and phased manner, which was possible under the earlier system. The amendment does not impose any agency with the responsibility of ensuring that High Security Number Plates are affixed on old/already sold motor vehicles. While the new scheme does make passing reference to old vehicles, it has been framed without keeping in view the enormity of the task involved.  

Furthermore, the present Scheme paves the way for supply through multiple manufacturers thereby scattering the steps involved in the manufacturing, supply, embossment, and affixation of High Security Number Plates and involving multiple entities in the process. Consequently, the feature of Issuance control, which was the very essence of the scheme when High Security Number Plates were introduced in 2001, stands dissolved.

Mr. Vikas Singh, Senior Advocate assisted by Mr. Naman Joshi, Advocate appeared on behalf of the Petitioner and alleged that the enforcement of the said Notifications will upset the entire HSRP Scheme as solidified by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

The Petitioner averred that since the said Notifications are in direct violation of the orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the Union should be held in contempt for willfully disobeying the orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice R. Bhanumati and Justice R. Subhash Reddy was pleased to take cognizance of the issue raised and issued a notice to the Union Government. The next date of hearing is fixed for 08.03.2019.

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