The High Court of Kerala held that for renewal of a driving license after one year of its expiry, it is mandatory to undergo the driving and competency road test.

The Petitioner challenged the Circular dated October 15, 2009, which was issued by the Transport Commissioner, Thiruvananthapuram, for being ultravires to the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

The Bench of Justice N. Nagaresh observed, “The intention of lawmakers is clear from the amendments brought about in the year 2019, whereby Section 15 relating to the renewal of licence is amended so as to make the test of competency to drive is made mandatory for renewal, if the application is made after one year of the expiry of the previous licence. In such circumstances, I find that Ext.P9 Circular is in tune with the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act brought about in the year 2019.”

Advocate Aswin Gopakumar appeared on behalf of the Petitioner and Advocate Sri Sreejith V.S. appeared on behalf of the Respondents.

In the present case, the Petitioner applied for the renewal of his Driver’s license after the expiry of two years. He submitted that a conjoint reading of Sections 9(3) and 15(4) of the Act would show that the applicants applying for renewal of their Driving License need not undergo such tests if the application has been preferred after one year of expiry but before five years.

The Court observed, “Section 9 deals with grant of Driving Licence whereas Section 15 deals with renewal of licence. The petitioner’s case is one of renewal of licence. Therefore, the petitioner will have to satisfy the requirement under the 2nd proviso to Section 15(4) which mandates passing of driving competency test if the application is made more than one year after the Driving Licence ceased to be effective.”

According to the Respondents, when the Petitioner submitted his application for replacement of Driving Licence to SRTO the Motor Vehicle Inspector became suspicious about the genuineness of the licence issued by the SRTO to the Petitioner and hence show-cause notice was issued.

Further submitted that the Petitioner failed to explain how he was issued a renewed licence without undergoing the test of competence to drive. The Driving Licence of the Petitioner was impounded for taking further action under Section 19 of the Motor Vehicles Act. Based on a preliminary enquiry by a Motor Vehicles Inspector, an enquiry is ordered.

The Court discussed the validity of the said circular in line with Section 9 and Section 15 of the MV Act. “The 2nd proviso to Section 15(4) mandates that if the application (for renewal of Driving Licence) is made more than one year after the Driving Licence ceased to be effective, the licensing authority shall refuse to renew the Driving Licence unless the applicant undergoes and passes to its satisfaction the test of competence to drive referred to in Section 9(3).”, the Court observed.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the petition and gave liberty to proceed with the Circular to the Respondents.

Cause Title: Sebastian Jacob v. The Transport Commissioner and Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2024:KER:18507)


Petitioner: Advocates Aswin Gopakumar, Anwin Gopakumar, Aditya Venugopalan, Nikitha Susan Paulso, Shallet K. Sam, Saranya Babu and Mahesh Chandran

Respondents: Advocate Sri Sreejith V.S., Government Pleader

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