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High Court Directs Punjab Govt To Streamline Procedure For Issuing Vehicle Fitness Certificates

Rahul Garg
17 Jan 2023 8:18 AM GMT
High Court Directs Punjab Govt To Streamline Procedure For Issuing Vehicle Fitness Certificates

The Punjab and Haryana High Court, while disposing of anticipatory bail applications of persons working for the Regional Transport Authority in Punjab’s Sangrur accused of charging bribe amount for giving fitness certificates to commercial vehicles without physical inspection, has directed the Punjab Government to streamline the process of issuance of such certificates.

The single bench of Justice Gurvinder Singh Gill pointed to the need for a more efficient and user-friendly process for issuance of vehicle fitness certificates to commercial vehicles, which would also lessen the chances of corrupt practices at the behest of authorities. Justice Gill said:

“Though, it has been informed that some kind of system has been put in place to enable vehicle owners to apply online for issuance of fitness certificate, but it appears that there is no provision for fixing or choosing any date in advance for getting physical inspection conducted. In the absence of any such system, the number of vehicle owners who would be turning up for vehicle inspection cannot be regulated. The said procedure needs to be streamlined and to be made efficient, easier and user-friendly. The easier the system is made, lesser would be the chances of corruption and exploitation by touts.”

The Court was hearing anticipatory bail applications of Ravinder Singh Gill, RTA, Sangrur, Mohinder Pal, Motor Vehicle Inspector, and Sanjeev Kumar and Satnam Singh, both of whom were working privately with the RTA.

The case dated back to an FIR which was registered against them under Sections 7, 7-A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and Sections 420, 465, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B IPC of the IPC.

As per the FIR, the Ravinder and Mohinder were passing commercial vehicles without physical inspection of such vehicles, though as per rules a vehicle could be passed only after physical verification. Allegedly 2500 vehicles were being passed in one month and as such, they were collecting a bribe amount of Rs. 35-40 lacs per month through various agents.

Accused Ravinder submitted that he had no role to play in the alleged scam. He had neither accepted or received any amount for physical verification or fitness certificate nor was it his duty to physically inspect the vehicles. His job was to scrutinize the files which used to be put up before him after completion of formalities put up through the software “Vahan Citizen Services,” arguing he was not guilty of the aforesaid offences.

Mohinder, the Motor Vehicles Inspector, submitted that the allegations pertaining to issuance of fitness certificates without conducting physical inspection were false. Having regard to the pressure of work on account of large number of vehicles which were required to be inspected, there could have been some inadvertent oversight or error in performance of his duty, he argued.

The High Court was informed of the documentary evidence collected during the investigation. Statements of Kashmir Singh, the driver and Gurpreet Singh, the security guard, both being deployed at the entry gate of PRTC Workshop were recorded, as per which no private commercial vehicle apart from the official buses had entered workshop for the purpose of inspection.

Based on these statements and the documentary evidence, the Court denied anticipatory bail to Mohinder Pal, the MVI, on grounds that based on the statements, certificates had been issued without physically inspecting the vehicles. Further, anticipatory bail was granted to Ravinder Singh, RTA, stating that he was not himself supposed to physically inspect the vehicles and was to only act on the basis of the reports put up to him.

As far as the petitioners Sanjeev Kumar and Satnam Singh, the High Court noted that they were the conduit between the agents who collected money from vehicle owners and the officials of the Transport Department i.e. Ravinder Singh Gill, RTA and Mohinder Pal, MVI. However, being private individuals working as touts, the Court granted them anticipatory bail noting that their role could not be equated with that of Mohinder Pal, the main accused.

Noting that the system needed an overhaul especially since the fitness certificates involved commercial vehicles which could not stay off the road for longer durations in want of fitness certificates, the Court said:

“It also goes without saying that owners of commercial vehicles, many of which would be financed, cannot afford to keep vehicles off the road as it would entail losses to them. Whenever any fitness certificate expires, the vehicle owner is required to get fitness certificate revalidated for which physical inspection is required. If such physical inspection is not conducted efficiently, it would mean that the owner will not be able to ply the vehicle and consequently, suffer losses. In such a scenario, the Government is required to ensure that the vehicle owners do not face any difficulty in getting their vehicles inspected.”

Accordingly, the Court directed the Secretary of the Department of Transport in the Government of Punjab to look into the matter and to apprise the Court of how the said process can be streamlined and the steps taken in this regard on the next date of hearing.

The matter has been listed on March 9.

Case Titles: Ravinder Singh Gill v. State of Punjab, Mohinder Pal v. State of Punjab, Sanjeev Kumar v. State of Punjab, Satnam Singh v. State of Punjab,

Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (PH) 12

Case No: CRM-M-39970-2022 (O&M); CRM-M-40918-2022 (O&M); CRM-M-43424-2022 (O&M) and CRM-M-43595-2022 (O&M)

Coram: Justice Gurvinder Singh Gill

Click Here To Read/Download the Order

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