Amicus Curiae Senior Advocate Manoj Swarup submitted before the Supreme Court, that the State Governments are not empowered to charge any additional fee for registration, otherwise than as provided under the Moto Vehicles Act, in a matter concerning payment of special fee against allotment of special registration numbers for vehicles.
- Prescription of Registration fees under Section 41(2) by Central Government
- Merely the State government “assigns” registration numbers
- Act being specific about Rule making powers of Center and State
- Need for Specific authorization in the Act for levy of fee
- Object of the MV Act is defeated by Levying of additional fee
In a civil appeal preferred by the Madhya Pradesh Government, the written submission has been filed against an order of the High Court which struck down a govt. notification prescribing fee to be charged for registration of motor vehicles by means of “reservation”.
On August 20, judgment was reserved by a Division Bench comprising of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat in the case.
Mr. Swarup opposing the state filed the reply, appealed that the impugned notification issued by State of Madhya Pradesh is ultra vires Section 41 (Registration, how to be made) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
Prescription of Registration fees under Section 41(2) by Central Government
Swarup in his written submission said that application for registration of Motor Vehicles is mentioned under Section 41 of the MV Act and as contemplated under Section 41(2), it lays down steps until final registration, including payment of “registration fees”.
But, the same does not stipulate any fees that may be charged for “allotment” as is done by the State Government under Section 41(6).
Submissions by Swarup
“The fee so prescribed by the Central Government is precisely for the service of registration to be rendered by the Registering Authority, till issuance of certificate of registration (which includes registration mark). The applicant i.e. the owner of the vehicle gets the registration number as an ‘end product’. That ‘end product’ is the service rendered by the Registering Authority for which fee is prescribed in Section 41(2) of the Act. The endeavor of the State Government – Appellant is to break-up the above-mentioned steps and to contend that at the stage of Section 41(6) of the Act, they are making ‘allotment’ and therefore rendering service, is misplaced”
Merely the State government “assigns” registration numbers
Swarup argued that for the entire exercise of registration, fee is specifically mentioned in Section 41(2) of the Act and no separate fee is contemplated under Section 41(6) of the Act.
A vehicle owner has to submit an application to the Registering Authority, along with such documents, particulars and information as prescribed by Central Government for obtaining a registration number for vehicles. Under Section 41(2) and Rule 81 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 such application is accompanied by such fee as may be prescribed by Central Government.
Submissions were also made that fee for the registration process is prescribed in Section 41(2) and the State Government does not have any power to levy any additional fee, under the garb of “allotment”.
Contentions were made that the no additional fee can be charged as State Government merely “assigns” the registration numbers, as allotted to it by the Central Government.
“The State Government has assumed to itself the function of ‘allotment’. This is contrary to Section 41(6) of the Act.
It is submitted that once the Central Government has ‘allotted’ the registration mark to the State Government, the further exercise of State Government for ‘allotment’ of registration mark by way of reservation is completely misconstrued and no such power is given to the State Government.”
Act being specific about Rule making powers of Center and State
It was noted that specifically Sub-section (o) of Section 64 (Power of Central Government to make rules) of the Act expresses the power of the Central Government to determine the fees to be charged for the issue or renewal or alteration of certificates of registration and the provision is specifically excluded from Section 65 (Power of State Government to make rules) of the Act, thus indicating that the powers exercised by the Central Government are not available to the State Government.
Need for Specific authorization in the Act for levy of fee
The written submission expressed that the State Government cannot invoke its general rule making power to levy fee and there must be a specific authorization in the Act for the same. In the absence of any such stipulation, it is contended the Government cannot charge the vehicle owners in the name of ‘assigning special numbers’.
Section 64(h) and Section 65(k) of the Act enable the State Government to prescribe fee/ amount under certain circumstances though these provisions do not relate to levy of registration fee.
Similarly, it is submitted that Section 211 of the Act is placed in Chapter XIV of the Act, titled “Miscellaneous”, as against Section 41(2) of the Act which is placed in the specific Chapter IV dealing with “Registration Of Motor Vehicles”. Therefore, it is contended that Section 41(2) is specific and Section 211 of the Act is residuary and general in its application and operation.
“The power to prescribe fee for registration of the Motor Vehicle is specifically provided in Section 41(2) and conferred exclusively on the Central Government. Once this is done, then in exercise of any power under Section 64 and Section 65, Section 41(2) of the Act cannot be violated.”
“Section 211 of the Act is a miscellaneous power in regard to levy of fee for ‘applications, amendment of documents, issue of certificates etc.’ Therefore, these documents have been enlisted generally however fees in regard to registration of a Motor Vehicle is specifically so provided in Section 41(2) of the Act. Therefore for registration of a Motor Vehicle, Section 41(2) being the special provision would govern and would leave Section 211 of the Act inapplicable in such a case.”
Object of the MV Act is defeated by Levying of additional fee
The MV Act, 1988 was enacted with the objective of bringing a “uniform regime” for fee throughout the Country.
Swarup highlighted that levy of such additional fee by the government for an “assumed role” of allotment, will defeat the very object of the allotment.
“Islands of isolation and regional or local imbalances were sought to be eliminated and therefore Section 41(2) of the 1988 Act brings a uniform regime for fee to be prescribed by the Central Government i.e. one fee structure for registration of Motor Vehicle, throughout the Country”