The Kerala High Court held that a Motor Vehicles Department cannot blacklist a vehicle based solely on a private dispute between parties.

The Court allowed a writ appeal challenging the notice blacklisting a tanker lorry allegedly belonging to the Appellant by the Motor Vehicles Department.

The Court noted that if there is a private dispute between the parties, they should seek resolution in a competent court.

If there is any private dispute existing between the parties, they are free to move the competent court for redressal of their private dispute. In the colour of a private dispute, the statutory provisions cannot be invoked to blacklist a vehicle”, the Bench comprising Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Shoba Annamma Eapen observed.

Advocate P. Sivaraj appeared for the Appellant and Advocate Gangadas A.R. appeared for the Respondent.

The case involved a dispute over the blacklisting of a tanker lorry by the Motor Vehicles Department. Aggrieved, the Appellant approached the High Court by way of an Appeal challenging the notice blacklisting the vehicle.

The Court framed the following issue: “Whether the Motor Vehicles Department is justified in blacklisting a tanker lorry consequent upon the dispute between the registered owner and the appellant herein?

The Court observed the requirement for drivers or conductors of motor vehicles to produce essential documents upon demand by police officers or authorized officials, as outlined in Rule 139 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 (CMV Rules).

Additionally, the Court observed a dispute over the legality of the blacklist, noting that public authorities should not use statutory provisions to address private disputes between parties. Instead, the Bench emphasized that parties involved in private disputes should seek redressal through the appropriate legal channels, and any orders from civil courts or competent authorities must be respected by public authorities.

Furthermore, the Court noted that according to Section 2(30) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (MVA), the term "owner" includes a person in possession of a vehicle, not necessarily the registered owner.

An owner includes a person in possession of the vehicle. Therefore, the owner need not be a registered owner. If the competent authority is satisfied that the person seeking a fitness certificate is the owner, then the public authority is acting in accordance with law”, the Bench added.

Additionally, the Bench emphasized that determining ownership of a fitness certificate is within the public authority's jurisdiction. However, the Court, concerning the blacklisting of the vehicle, observed that public authorities should not blacklist a vehicle due to a private dispute unless there is a court order on the matter.

The court directed the lifting of the vehicle's blacklisting, subject to any ongoing civil disputes between the parties and any orders from the competent civil court.

Cause Title: Saseendran v The Joint Regional Transport Officer (2023:KER:82427)

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