In a judgment of more than 120 pages, the Kerala High Court has issued a set of guidelines to ensure road safety and compliance with the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act following the increasing number of reported accidents involving motor vehicles. Sabarimala pilgrims traveling by bus and other contract cars.

A dividing bench of Judge Anil K. Narendran and Judge PG Ajithkumar found that despite several guidelines in place, vehicles were allowed to drive on public roads in disregard of road safety standards, posing a potential threat to the safety of passengers and other road users.

The directions were issued on a suo motu matter taken by the High Court based on a report by the Special Commissioner of Sabarimala regarding the operation of the Safe Zone Project. The project has been operational since November 15, 2021. The report says the safety zone project has so far experienced 40 major accidents, 758 major breakdowns and 536 minor breakdowns.

The High Court noted from footage of one of the recent crashes that various objects were placed/suspended in front of the windscreen of the contract car causing an obstruction to the clear view of the driver in front. The vehicle then rammed the rear of a tempo traveler who was then pushed forward running and killing two passengers standing in the road. Both were Sabarimala pilgrims.

Another temporary traveler was involved in an accident in December 2021, where 16 Sabarimala pilgrims from Telangana, including two children aged 11 and 13, were injured. According to the report, the Tempo Traveler in which they were traveling hit a truck, around midnight, while the driver of this truck was reversing.

Accordingly, the Court issued the following instructions to the Commissioner of Transportation, the Chief of the State Police, and various officers under them:

1) Officers must ensure strict enforcement of road safety policy and the provisions of the Motor Vehicle (Driving) Regulations 2017, as set out in the guidance contained in the Apex Court ruling in S Rajaseekaran v Indian Union. They ensure the strict application of the prohibition contained in the decisions of Avishek Goenka vs Indian Union against the alteration of the percentage of visual transmission of the light of the safety glass of the windscreen, the rear window and the side windows of motor vehicles.

2) In view of the law established in the various decisions of the High Court of Kerala, and since the use of such vehicles in public places in defiance of road safety standards is likely to endanger the safety of the passengers of these vehicles as well as other road users, officers prohibit the use of contract cars and other transportation vehicles in public places:

  • flouting safety standards after replacing prototype approved lighting, light-signalling devices and reflectors with multi-color LED/laser/neon lights, flashlights, etc. ;
  • without maintaining lighting and light-signalling devices as well as retro-reflectors according to individual specifications, i.e. number, position, width, height, length, geometric visibility, orientation, etc. specified in AIS-008 (Installation Requirements of Lighting and Light – the signaling devices of a motor vehicle with more than three wheels including quadricycles, trailer and semi-trailer excluding agricultural tractors);
  • with high-powered audio systems producing loud sound with a nominal power of several thousand watts PMPO, impairing the hearing of the driver and passengers and distracting other road users;
  • with continuously flashing DJ rotating LED lights, multi-color LED/laser/neon lights in the cabin, turning the cabin into a dance floor, entertaining the driver of this vehicle as well as other road users;
  • with multi-color LED/laser/neon lights as well as booster amplifiers, equalizer, DJ mixer, etc., with illuminated control panels in the driver’s cabin, causing glare and reflection of the light on the windshield of the vehicle, endangering the safety of passengers and other road users;
  • mixing AC and DC power for high-power audio systems with DJ mixers, DJ dance lights, laser lights, etc., violating safety standards, posing a potential fire hazard to passengers in such vehicles ;
  • alter the percentage of visual light transmission of the safety glass of the windshield, rear window and side windows, by sticking stickers, tinting films, etc. on safety glass, fixing sliding fabric curtains, etc., in violation of sub-rule (2) of Rule 100 of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules;
  • placing/hanging various objects in front of the windshield and writing the name of the bus in the middle of the windshield, above the level of the dashboard, obstructing the driver’s clear vision, both forwards and from an angle of ninety degrees on its right or left side in violation of Rule 278 of Kerala Motor Vehicle Rules; and
  • exhibit writings, advertisements, graphs, figures, etc. for the sole purpose of attracting public attention and promoting the contractual transport service, distracting drivers of other vehicles as well as cyclists and pedestrians on public roads;

3) Officers shall prevent the use of contract cars and other transport vehicles in public places with multi-tone horns giving a succession of different notes or a horn producing an unduly harsh, shrill, loud or alarming noise, in violation of Rule 119(2) of the Central Motor Vehicle Regulations.

4) Pursuant to Section 190(2) of the MV Act, any person who drives, or causes to be driven, or permits the driving, in a public place, of a motor vehicle which contravenes prescribed standards of traffic safety, noise control and air pollution, shall be punished for the first offense with imprisonment for up to three months or with a fine of up to ten thousand rupees or both, and he shall be disqualified from holding a license for a period of three months and for any subsequent or subsequent offenses with imprisonment for up to six months or with a fine of up to ten thousand rupees or both .

5) Pursuant to Section 206(4) of the MV Act, a police officer or other person authorized for that purpose by the state government shall seize the driver’s license held by the operator of a motor vehicle who has committed an offense under Section 190 and forward it to the licensing authority for forfeiture or revocation proceedings under Section 19.

6) A transport vehicle governed by AIS-008, which is not equipped with lighting and light-signalling devices as well as reflectors in accordance with individual specifications, cannot be granted a certificate of fitness, because a such a vehicle cannot be treated as a vehicle complying with the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act and the rules made thereunder, for the purpose of issuing a certificate of fitness. The certificate of fitness granted to this vehicle shall be canceled by the prescribed authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 56 (4) of the MV Act. In appropriate cases, the registration authority shall initiate proceedings to suspend or cancel the letter of authorization granted or renewed under Regulation 63(5) of the Central Motor Vehicle Regulations or to confiscate the deposit of guarantee, after having given the holder of the letter of authorization the possibility of being heard.

Quote: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 110

Click here to read/download the judgment

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