India: Legality Of Automobile Modification/Customization In India

Last Updated: 18 January 2019
Article by Shubham Borkar and Gursimran Narula
Most Read Contributor in India, January 2019

Everyone of us have either did or would have at least thought of modifying/customizing our bike, our car as per your preferences and to make it look above the rest. However when I woke up on 10th January, my dreams of modifying my Royal Enfield Thunderbird shattered after reading the headlines "You can't paint or modify your bike, car! It's against the law"1. Newspapers are filled with such headlines after the Supreme Court reversed the judgement of Division Bench of Kerala High Court that allowed structural alterations in accordance with Kerala Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.

After reading the headlines and abridged report, I went on to read to everything on the subject to have a better clarity on whether this is a blanket ban on each and every modifications or there are certain regulations surpassing which could lead to illegality of the modification.

The first impression of the Court's ruling is certainly a setback for car and bike modification industry thriving on fancy requirements of their clients. Though these operations are confined to local garages the industry has seen some of the big names emerging too, these include DC motors, Rajputana Customs and Vardenchi. The industry takes care of modifications in the automobiles for performance enhancement and cosmetic redesigning.

Law in question

The Motor Vehicles Act ,1988 is the chief legal instrument relating to motor vehicles in India. It delves into all aspects relating to motor vehicles in the country including the changes in road transport technologies, pattern of passenger and freight movements, developments of the road transport network in the country and improved techniques in the motor vehicles management and the controversial judgement of the Supreme Court deals with Section 52 of this legislation only, that specifically talks about Alteration in motor vehicles. This section has been amended by virtue of Amendment Act 27/2000 in the following manner :

"Amendment Act 27 of 2000 – Statement of Objects and Reasons¬¬ – The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 consolidated and rationalized various laws regulating road transport .The said Act was amended in 1994.

2. Further amendments in the aforesaid Act have become necessary so as to reduce the vehicular pollution and to ensure the safety of the road users. It is ,therefore ,proposed and to ensure the safety of vehicles in any manner including change of tyres of higher capacity .However ,the alteration of vehicles with a view to facilitating the use of eco-friendly fuel including Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is being permitted. Further, it is proposed to conferpowers on the Central Government to allow the alterations of vehicles for certain specified purposes."

Further the amended version of Section 52 that essentially deals with Alteration in a motor vehicle states

"(1) No owner of a motor vehicle shall so alter the vehicle that the particulars contained in the certificate of registration are at variance with those originally specified by the manufacturer"

Provided these modifications are in pursuance of the above mentioned objectives of enhancing fuel efficiency thereby reducing vehicular pollution or any other special purpose as exempted by the Central Government. Further, any modifications made in the vehicle need to be approved by State Government.

Facts of the Matter

The dilemma began as in pursuance of the above law, the Kerala government issued a Circular specifying that the Registering Authorities must not issue a certificate of registration to those vehicles that are built or modified in violation of the prototypes set. Based on the circular, a number of vehicles were denied registration on account of having dimensions different than those specified .This led to several vehicle owners filing Writ petitions in Kerala High Court against such denial. The decisions rendered by Single Judge benches of the High Court in two different cases were contrary to each other. While one decision stated that the Regional Transport Authority's powers to "intelligently exercise their discretion" cannot be "fettered", another stated that "derogation of a prototype cannot be approved." Thus the matter was referred to a Divisional Bench wherein the High Court passed an order holding "structural alterations permissible as per the provisions of the Kerala Rules."

Supreme Court's ruling

The court found fallacy's in the Divisional bench judgement mainly on the interpretation of the Rules . It held that the interpretation of the Rules should be done in a manner so as to support the intent of the Act. Further, the court on specific point of permissible changes held that the changes permitted under the Rules can be made subject to the exemptions imposed by Section 52 of the Motor Vehicles act while stating that Rules are subservient to the Act, the Court held .

"In our considered opinion the Division Bench in the impugned judgement of the High Court of Kerala has failed to give effect to the provisions contained in section 52(1) and has emphasized only on the Rules. As such, the decision rendered by the Division Bench cannot be said to be laying down the law correctly .The Rules are subservient to the provisions of the Act."

Implications of the Judgment

It can be plainly assumed that no modifications shall be allowed in the vehicles unless those related to the exemptions under Section 52 , which namely includes changes done in pursuance with reducing vehicular pollution or ones specifically exempted by the Central Government. However, does this mean any change can be done in the vehicle on the name of improving fuel efficiency?

Thus one carefully needs to understand the meaning of "alterations" as stated under section 52 of the Act.

"Explanation : For the purposes of this section, "alteration" means a change in the structure of a vehicle which results in a change in its basic feature."

Thus, there lies ample space for the automobile modification industry to operate. Modifications in automobile may be approved if the basic feature of the automobile are intact and the modifications made thereupon does not harm road safety or violate the law stated above.

Some precedents mentioned in the judgement delve help us better understand the law :

  • S Rajesh Kumar v. The Additional Registering Authority of Kerala High Court2

In this case, the petitioner wanted to convert a a passenger vehicle into a cinema outdoor unit by fixing a generator set therein. The Court held that the petitioner has not made any alteration to either the chassis or the body of the vehicle as the manufacturer has manufactured only the chassis of the vehicle and not its superstructure . In pace of the seats meant for the passengers, the petitioner was fitting only a generator which was permissible. There was no violation of the provisions of section 52.

  • Javeed v. Union of India &Ors3

In this case chassis were changed as a necessity on account of an accident. There were no other changes in the structure of the vehicle. It was held that section 52(3) enables the owner of the vehicle to replace the engine of the vehicle but the factum of replacement has to be reported to the Authority within 14 days .Thus refusal of registration was held to be bad in law and set aside.

Thus it can be concluded, This Judgment is not a BLANKET BAN on each and every customization/modification and it encompasses only the unwarranted cosmetic changes in automobiles especially application of higher capacity wheels or extension of body frames that pose threat to road safety or in any manner increases pollution caused by the automobile this would entail change in exhausts, changes in engine configuration. However, silver lining in the cloud is, there is still room for modifications to continue in pursuance with objectives and exemptions laid under Section 52 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1989 and cutom houses like DC, Vardenchi abd Rajputana Customs will continue to rule our hearts with their magnificent designs.

Footnotes

1https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/you-can-paint-or-modify-your-bike-car-it-is-against-law/story/308685.html

2K.S Rajesh Kumar v. The Additional Registering Authority of Kerala High Court delivered on 1.2.2010

3Mohd.Javeed v. Union of India &Ors. (2001) 9 ALD 88 = 2009 1 ALT 507

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Sign Up
Gain free access to lawyers expertise from more than 250 countries.
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Industry
Mondaq Newsalert
Select Topics
Select Regions
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions