Senior Advocate Manoj Swarup, Amicus Curiae in a matter concerning payment of special fee against allotment of special registration numbers for vehicles, has submitted before the Supreme Court that the state Governments are not empowered to charge any additional fee for registration, otherwise than as provided under the Moto Vehicles Act.
The written submission has been filed in a civil appeal preferred by the Madhya Pradesh Government, against an order of the High Court which struck down a govt. notification prescribing fee to be charged for registration of motor vehicles by means of "reservation".
A Division Bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat reserved judgment in the case on August 20.
The reply filed by Mr. Swarup opposes the state appeal and avers that the impugned notification issued by State of Madhya Pradesh is ultra vires Section 41 (Registration, how to be made) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
Registration fees prescribed by Central Government under Section 41(2)
In his written submission, Swarup has submitted that Section 41 of the MV Act contemplates application for registration of Motor Vehicles and lays down steps until final registration, including payment of "registration fees", as contemplated under Section 41(2).
However, the same does not stipulate any fees that may be charged for "allotment" as is done by the State Government under Section 41(6).
"The fee so prescribed by the Central Government is precisely for the service of registration to be rendered by the Registering Authority, till issuance of certificate of registration (which includes registration mark). The applicant i.e. the owner of the vehicle gets the registration number as an 'end product'. That 'end product' is the service rendered by the Registering Authority for which fee is prescribed in Section 41(2) of the Act. The endeavour of the State Government – Appellant is to break-up the above mentioned steps and to contend that at the stage of Section 41(6) of the Act, they are making 'allotment' and therefore rendering service, is mis-placed," he has submitted.
State government merely "assigns" registration numbers
Further, Swarup argued that for the entire exercise of registration, fee is specifically mentioned in Section 41(2) of the Act and no separate fee is contemplated under Section 41(6) of the Act.
For obtaining a registration number for vehicles, a vehicle owner has to submit an application to the Registering Authority, along with such documents, particulars and information as prescribed by Central Government. Such application is accompanied by such fee as may be prescribed by Central Government under Section 41(2) and Rule 81 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.
Swarup has submitted that fee for the registration process is prescribed in Section 41(2) and the State Government does not have any power to levy any additional fee, under the garb of "allotment".
He has contended that the State Government merely "assigns" the registration numbers, as allotted to it by the Central Government, and no additional fee can be charged for the same.
"The State Government has assumed to itself the function of 'allotment'. This is contrary to Section 41(6) of the Act.
It is submitted that once the Central Government has 'allotted' the registration mark to the State Government, the further exercise of State Government for 'allotment' of registration mark by way of reservation is completely misconstrued and no such power is given to the State Government," he submitted.
Rule making powers of Centre and State specifically defined
It is pointed out that Sub-section (o) of Section 64 (Power of Central Government to make rules) of the Act specifically contemplates power of the Central Government to determine the fees to be charged for the issue or renewal or alteration of certificates of registration.
Further, the provision is specifically excluded from Section 65 (Power of State Government to make rules) of the Act, thus indicating that the powers exercised by the Central Government are not available to the State Government.
There has to be specific authorisation in the Act for levy of fee
The written submission states that the State Government cannot invoke its general rule making power to levy fee and there must be a specific authorization in the Act for the same. In the absence of any such stipulation, it is contended the Government cannot charge the vehicle owners in the name of 'assigning special numbers'.
It is illustrated that Section 64(h) and Section 65(k) of the Act enable the State Government to prescribe fee/ amount under certain circumstances. However, it is contended that these provisions do not relate to levy of registration fee.
"The power to prescribe fee for registration of the Motor Vehicle is specifically provided in Section 41(2) and conferred exclusively on the Central Government. Once this is done, then in exercise of any power under Section 64 and Section 65, Section 41(2) of the Act cannot be violated," the reply states.
Similarly, in reference to Section 211 of the Act it is submitted that the same is placed in Chapter XIV of the Act, titled "Miscellaneous", as against Section 41(2) of the Act which is placed in the specific Chapter IV dealing with "Registration Of Motor Vehicles". Therefore, it is contended that Section 41(2) is specific and Section 211 of the Act is residuary and general in its application and operation.
"Section 211 of the Act is a miscellaneous power in regard to levy of fee for 'applications, amendment of documents, issue of certificates etc.' Therefore, these documents have been enlisted generally however fees in regard to registration of a Motor Vehicle is specifically so provided in Section 41(2) of the Act. Therefore for registration of a Motor Vehicle, Section 41(2) being the special provision would govern and would leave Section 211 of the Act inapplicable in such a case," the reply states.
Levy of additional fee defeats object of the MV Act
Swarup has highlighted that the MV Act, 1988 was enacted with the objective of bringing a "uniform regime" for fee throughout the Country. It is submitted that levy of such additional fee by the government for an "assumed role" of allotment, will defeat the very object of the allotment.
"Islands of isolation and regional or local imbalances were sought to be eliminated and therefore Section 41(2) of the 1988 Act brings a uniform regime for fee to be prescribed by the Central Government i.e. one fee structure for registration of Motor Vehicle, throughout the Country," he submitted.
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