Reduced limits prescribed by State may be specified through sign boards.
The Kerala High Court recently held that Central Government notifications prescribing the maximum speed limit are mandatory as per Section 112 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and every driver is legally presumed to know the same.
It added that this obligation is irrespective of whether mandatory traffic signs have been put up by the State indicating the reduced maximum speed limits on various stretches of the roads.
The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly observed,
"it can be seen that when speed limits are fixed by the Central Government, every driver of the vehicle is duty bound to follow the limit prescribed therein. It may be true that the State Government by virtue of the powers conferred under Section 116 of Act 1988 read with Sub-section (2) of Section 112 is duty bound to fix traffic signs showing the speed limits, but once the maximum speed limit is fixed by the Central Government by notification in the official gazette, the said speed limit is legally presumed to be known to every driver driving vehicles on the road, depending on the nature of the road and the speed limits earmarked for such routes. This in our view, is a mandatory requirement under section 112(1) and the proviso to it, of the Act 1988".
In case of any violation of the limit fixed by the Central Government, the Inspector of Police, High-Tech Traffic Enforcement Control Room, is empowered to discharge the functions as per the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and the issuance of charge memos by the said authority could not be termed as illegal, the Court added.
The brief facts of the case indicate that the appellant herein, who is an owner of a motor car, was served with Charge memos by the Inspector of Police, High-Tech Traffic Enforcement Control Room, Thiruvananthapuram (the 9th respondent herein), for speeding and imposing a fine of Rs. 1,500/-.
Before the Single Judge of the High Court, it was contended by the appellant (the petitioner therein) that the said 9th respondent had no authority or jurisdiction to issue the charge memos without erecting sign marks on each and every road stretch, cautioning general public regarding speed limits applicable on the roads managed and maintained by the Union of India, State Government and other statutory authorities, and that only the jurisdictional Police or the competent authority under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and the rules thereto could do so.
The Single Judge however, dismissed the writ on the ground that the imposition of fine for over speeding of vehicles is a summary proceeding, which could not be challenged in a writ petition, since it involves disputed questions of fact.
Before the Division Bench, it was contended on behalf of the appellant by Advocates G. Sreekumar, S. Sudheesh, and Renjini R., in the instant writ appeal, that the dismissal of the writ petition by the Single Judge was without any reasons. It was argued that the Single Judge had dismissed the petition erroneously since the challenge made in the writ petition was to the jurisdiction of the impugned authority to take cognizance and adjudicate on the overspeeding of the vehicle in question owned by the appellant for the alleged offence. It was averred that the Single Judge ought to have considered the issue taking due note of the appellant's fundamental rights.
The Court firstly considered the jurisdictional issue of the 9th respondent. On finding that the said power was exercised in light of the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, the Court further added that the same had not caused any manner of prejudice to the appellant, and the jurisdictional question raised also had no force.
It then went on to peruse Section 112 of the Motor Vehicles Act, and observed that by virtue of the said provision, the Central Government had successively issued notifications with respect to the speed limit on various roads. The State Government had further restricted the same by another notification dated 28th February 2014.
In such a scenario, the Court importantly observed, while the State Government may have to erect traffic sign boards as contemplated under Section 112 (2) read with Section 116 of Act 1988, drivers on the roads are still expected to know the maximum speed limit fixed by the Central Government, irrespective of the reduced maximum speed limit fixed by the State as per its notification on certain routes.
"This means if the petitioner has exceeded the speed limit notified by the Central Government on any roads, the 9th respondent was vested with the power to issue a charge memo under Section 183 of the Act 1988", the Court found.
It added that if the appellant had any case that traffic signs were not put up to identify the reduced maximum speed limits on various stretches of the roads, in accordance with the notification issued by the State Government, it ought to be addressed by a fact finding body.
"It is not for this Court to enter into any finding as to whether, in the area in question where the appellant crossed the speed limit, the State Government has put up any traffic sign board concerning the speed, exercising the powers conferred under Article 226 of the Constitution of India", the Court noted.
The Court additionally declared that if the appellant had any claims that they were not driving in excess of the speed limit prescribed by the Central Government, it would be for the appellants themselves to defend the case before the competent Magistrate court, considering that the same is a factual aspect.
On these grounds, the writ appeal was dismissed and the Single Judge order was affirmed.
Case Title: Rinu Sreejaya Aswan @ Rinu S Aswan v. Union of India & Ors.