Kerala HC stays single judge order upholding MVD circular on driving licence renewal

The Kerala High Court has stayed a single judge's order upholding a Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) circular making driving tests mandatory for renewing a licence if the application for renewal is made more than a year after expiry of the same.
Kerala High Court
Kerala High Court
driving licence
driving licence

Kochi | The Kerala High Court has stayed a single judge's order upholding a Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) circular making driving tests mandatory for renewing a licence if the application for renewal is made more than a year after expiry of the same.

A bench of Chief Justice A J Desai and Justice V G Arun granted an interim stay on the single judge's order of March 5 on a plea by a man whose renewed licence was later impounded by the MVD for non-compliance of the circular issued in 2019.

The court listed the matter for further consideration on July 10.

The petitioner's driving licence had expired in October 2020 and according to him he could not renew it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The petitioner, who was working in the UAE, arrived in Kerala in June 2022, applied for renewal in July 2022 and the RTO renewed it till 2032.

However, when he submitted an application to replace his laminated driving licence with a smart card, he received a show cause notice to appear before the RTO.

When he sought time to appear, he later received a second show cause notice and on enquiry he found out that the action was being taken as he did not undergo a competency road test while renewing his licence as required under the circular of 2019.

According to the 2019 circular, any person applying for renewal of a driving licence after one year of expiry but before five years, will have to submit an application for learners licence and will have to undergo driving test and competency road test.

The petitioner, Sebastian Jacob, had claimed before the single judge that according to the proviso to section 9(3) -- that deals with grant of driving licence -- of the Motor Vehicles Act, if the application for renewal was made before expiry of five years, no driving test was required.

The single judge, disagreeing with his contention, had said that according to the second proviso to section 15(4) -- that deals with renewal of driving licences -- of the Act after its amendment in 2019, a driving test was mandatory.

Acknowledging the incongruity between the two provisions, the single judge had said that the second proviso to section 15(4) would be applicable as it deals with renewal and the other section deals with grant of driving licence.

The judge had also said that " the intention of lawmakers is clear from the amendments brought about in the year 2019, whereby section 15 relating to renewal of licence is amended so as to make the test of competency to drive mandatory for renewal, if the application is made after one year of the expiry of the previous licence." "Admittedly, the petitioner (Jacob) has made the application for renewal of driving licence only after one year of the expiry of the previous driving licence. The petitioner has to, therefore, undergo a test of competency to drive for the purpose of renewal of driving licence," the judge added.

In his appeal against the single judge's decision, Jacob has contended that the second proviso to section 15(4) of the Act applies to an instance where the license has ceased to be effective -- where a person has been disqualified under section 19 of the Act from holding a licence for a specific period of time.

He has claimed that the interpretation given to the provisions by the single judge overlooks that expiry of licence and a licence ceasing to be effective are two separate contingencies.

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