The State Of Madhya Pradesh vs Rakesh Sethi . on 26 August, 2020


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Supreme Court of India

The State Of Madhya Pradesh vs Rakesh Sethi . on 26 August, 2020

Author: S. Ravindra Bhat

Bench: L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, S. Ravindra Bhat

                                            1

                                                                         REPORTABLE
                       IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                       (CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION)

                         CIVIL APPEAL NO. 7074 OF 2008



STATE OF M.P. & ORS.                                               ...APPELLANT(S)

                                        VERSUS

RAKESH SETHI & ANR.                                               ...RESPONDENT(S)



                                      JUDGMENT

S. RAVINDRA BHAT, J.

1. This appeal challenges a judgment of the Madhya Pradesh High Court which
quashed Rule 55A of the Motor Vehicles Rules, 1994 (hereafter “the State Rules”)
framed by the Madhya Pradesh State (hereafter “the state”) and published by it. The
respondent (hereafter “the vehicle owner”) had approached the High Court, contending
that the said rule was ultra vires the state’s power under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988
(hereafter “the Act”), and the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 (hereafter “the Central
Rules”). The High Court accepted his contentions.

2. The vehicle owner purchased the motorcycle in May, 2004 and applied for its
registration on 25-05-2004 before the concerned registering authority, through the
prescribed application in Form No. 20. By an order (of 27-05-2004), the registering
authority rejected the application, stating that the vehicle owner’s claim for allotment of
registration number ‘MP-KL-4646’ could not be accepted, as the petitioner had not paid
the required fee prescribed for allotment of that number. The motorcycle was allotted
another number (MP20-KL-5100) which the petitioner did not want. He therefore,
2

approached the High Court in writ proceedings, contending that allotment of a particular
number on payment of a fee (provided in Rule 55A) was contrary to and inconsistent
with the provisions of Section 41 and the powers conferred on the State Government to
frame rules under Section 65 of the Act of 1988. He challenged the amendment
incorporated in the State Rules of 1994 by a notification dated 15.02.2001. He also
sought a direction to the registration authority that he should be assigned the number
4646 for his motorcycle. Under Rule 55A, this number was reserved by the State to be
assigned by a separate procedure. The Rules, particularly Rule 55A prescribed not only
the procedure but also a special fee for assigning such reserved numbers (which
included 4646, which the vehicle owner insisted should be allotted to him). He
contended that Rule 55A, was ultra vires the provisions of the Act.

3. Mr. Saurabh Mishra, learned counsel for the State relied upon the scheme of the
Act, and highlighted that while Section 41(2) undoubtedly conferred the power to
prescribe rules and also a fee to allot registration numbers, yet Section 41(6) was
specific in that even while the Central Government was authorized to allot certain
numbers to the State, the further or onward registration or assignment of those numbers
as registration numbers was left to the State.

4. Learned counsel argued that the State Rules were framed by virtue of the powers
conferred under section 65 of the Act, which empowers the State to inter alia, make
rules with regard to issue or renewal of certificate of registration, as well as amounts to
be charged for such registration. It was also argued that under Section 211 of the Act, the
State is entitled to levy a fee with respect to applications submitted for issuing
certificates, licenses or registrations and as the State fixed the procedure for allotment of
registration mark by reservation exercising powers under Section 211, such procedure is
in accordance with the law. It was argued by Mr. Mishra, that by virtue of Section 41 (6),
the registering authority can assign to any vehicle for display on it, a distinguishing
mark known as the registration mark. It is submitted that in this instance, since Rule 55A
merely empowers the registering authority to assign a specific registration mark, on
3

demand to the concerned person, the power exercised is relatable to Section 41(6), and
the High Court’s conclusions are erroneous.

5. It was pointed out by Mr. Mishra that the responsibility of assigning registration
mark to motor vehicles is that of the State Government. He emphasized that Section 64

(d) of the Act empowers the Central Government to “prescribe the manner and the form
in which the registration mark of the vehicles is to be displayed”. The Central
Government has in fact, specified the form and the manner of display of registration
marks on motor vehicles, under Rules 50 and 51 of the Central Rules. The issue raised
by the petitioner relates to allocation of a particular registration series, which is within
the exclusive domain of the concerned registering authority of the State. The Central
Government is not concerned with the allocation of distinguished registration marks.

6. Learned counsel argued that the powers of the central government and the states
were clearly delineated; no doubt, the Central Government had exclusive domain over
the allocation of particular numbers or series of numbers to the states, and could
prescribe the fee to be paid when applications are made for registration. However, under
Section 41(6), once a series of numbers (or alpha numeric series) is allotted to a state,
the procedure to be followed and the fee to be prescribed for assigning the concerned
numbers as registration of individual vehicles is that of the state. The registering
authority is none other than a state designated official or agency.

7. Reliance was placed on Offshore Holdings (P.) Ltd. v. Bangalore Development
Authority1
by Mr. Mishra, who drew the attention of this court to observations that when
two laws, one by the Centre and the other by the state, are alleged to be in conflict (or
repugnant to each other) the court should not readily infer repugnancy, but should:

“ignore an encroachment which is merely incidental in order to
reconcile the provisions and harmoniously implement them. If
ultimately, the provisions of both the Acts can coexist without conflict,
then it is not expected of the courts to invalidate the law in question.”

1
(2011) 3 SCC 139.

4

8. This court had also observed that the doctrine of supremacy of federal laws under
Article 254 should:

“normally be resorted to only when the conflict is so patent and
irreconcilable that coexistence of the two laws is not feasible. Such
conflict must be an actual one and not a mere seeming conflict
between the entries in the two lists. While entries have to be construed
liberally, their irreconcilability and impossibility of coexistence
should be patent.”

9. Mr. Mishra also relied on other decisions of this court, highlighting that conflict of
laws or repugnancy between state and central laws should not be readily inferred, under
the Constitution, but rather, the courts should first attempt at harmonizing the two sets of
apparently conflicting norms.2 Counsel also relied on Sarkari Sasta Anaj Vikreta Sangh
v. State of M.P3
and urged that the course adopted by the state to assign specific
registration numbers through a separate procedure, was in fact a result of popular
demand, since many people wanted such specific registration numbers for
numerological, astrological and religious reasons. He submitted that the state could have
even resorted to its executive powers without framing a rule, since the task of assigning
numbers fell within its domain, under the scheme of the Act.

10. It was argued that a reading of Section 211 along with Section 65(2)(d) and (k)
clearly indicates that the State Government can make rules with regard to the subjects on
which it is specifically empowered to do so. As far as the registration of motor vehicles
and prescribing fees for registration are concerned, the power is of the State Government
to prescribe rules for providing the procedure for assigning or renewing registration
numbers, through the registering authority. Stressing that Section 211 was erroneously
interpreted by the High Court, learned counsel submitted that it clearly empowered the
state to prescribe a fee not otherwise provided, in respect of a service provided by it.
Counsel argued that the state provided a separate service, i.e. allocating specific desired

2
Fatehchand Himmatlal v. State of Maharashtra [(1977) 2 SCC 670]; Union of India v. Shah Goverdhan L. Kabra
Teachers’ College
[(2002) 8 SCC 228] and Girnar Traders v State of Maharasthra [(2011) 3 SCC 1].

3

(1981) 4 SCC 471.

5

numbers to vehicle owners, for which it could well claim a fee, over and above the
registration fee prescribed by the Central Government, under Section 41(2).

11. Learned counsel lastly submitted that the generality of the provisions of Section
65(1)
and the deployment of the expression “without prejudice to the generality of
provisions of sub-section (1)” in Section 65 (2), together with Section 65(2)(p) were
meant to clothe the state government with the power to impose a fee for the kind of
services involved in the present dispute. He relied on the judgment in Academy of
Nutrition Improvement v. Union of India4
where this court had interpreted a pari materia
expression (“in particular and without the generality of the foregoing power, such rules
may provide for all or any of the following matters”5). This court had observed, in that
judgment, as follows:

“Statutes delegating the power to make rules follow a standard
pattern. The relevant section would first contain a provision granting
the power to make rules to the delegate in general terms, by using the
words `to carry out the provisions of this Act’ or `to carry out the
purposes of this Act’. This is usually followed by another sub-section
enumerating the matters/areas in regard to which specific power is
delegated by using the words `in particular and without prejudice to
the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all
or any of the following matters.” Interpreting such provisions, this
Court in a number of decisions has held that where power is conferred
to make subordinate legislation in general terms, the subsequent
particularization of the matters/topics has to be construed as merely
illustrative and not limiting the scope of the general power.
Consequently, even if the specific enumerated topics in section 23
(1A) may not empower the Central Government to make the impugned
rule (Rule 44-I), making of the Rule can be justified with reference to
the general power conferred on the central government under section
23
(1), provided the rule does not travel beyond the scope of the Act.”

12. Service of notice of the present proceedings was complete, upon the respondent
vehicle owner. He has however chosen to remain absent. Having regard to the public

4
(2011) 8 SCC 274.

5

Section 2 (1), The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954.

6

importance of issues involved in the present case, Mr. Manoj Swaroop, learned senior
counsel, was asked to assist this court as amicus curiae which he did, with much
industry and ardor. The amicus urged this court not to disturb or interfere with the
judgment under appeal. He outlined the scheme of the Act, and underlined Sections
41(1)
, (2), (3), (6) and (the now deleted6 s. 41(13)), and contended that there was a clear
demarcation of powers of the state and central governments. Highlighting the
delineation of rule making powers under Section 64 (by the central government) and
under Section 65 (by the state government) it was submitted that the subject of
prescription of fee for allotment of registration was exhausted; the central government
had exclusive authority to prescribe the particulars required, the form to be used for
applying7 and the form of registration certificates for various kinds of vehicles 8. Thus,
the state had no power to prescribe fees, much less prescribe by-rules for a procedure for
assigning specific numbers to various applicants. It was argued that even the power of
allocation of a sequence of numbers to individual states was reserved to the central
government alone. These ruled out prescription of any further fee, or creation of a
separate procedure for assigning specific numbers, and charging higher amounts from
desirous applicants/ vehicle owners.

13. Mr. Swaroop argued that Section 211 states that if by any rule, the Central or the
State Government is empowered to make under the Motor Vehicles Act, then the Central
Government or the State Governments, notwithstanding the absence of any express
provision, are empowered to provide for levy of such fees in respect of various items like
applications, applications for amendment to the issue of certificates and other matters
provided therein. It was argued that to levy a fee under Section 211, a provision should
exist empowering the Central Government or the State Government to make such a rule.
Such power cannot be exercised in regard to matters for which the Act does not give
power to the State Government to make Rules. Since the power to prescribe a fee for
6
By virtue of amendment through Act 32 of 2019, by Parliament.

7

Form 20, attached to the Central Rules.

8

Form 23 and 23A, attached to the Central Rules.

7

registration of a motor vehicle is vested in the Central Government under Section 41(2),
the power to levy a fee under section 211 can be exercised by the State Government only
if it is empowered under the Act to prescribe fees for the purpose of registration of a
motor vehicle. The Act does not empower the State Government to levy fees for
registration of a vehicle; therefore, no fees can be prescribed for allotment of a
registration mark for a motor vehicle, exercising powers under Section 211. It was
submitted that the so called right of assigning the registration number is only the last
step in the process of allotment, for which the Central Government levies a fee under
Section 41(2).

14. Mr. Swaroop argued that the state is conferred with power only to make rules
providing the procedure for issue or renewal of certificate or recovery of amount or
amounts under sub-section (13) of Section 14 i.e., to prescribe the amount to be paid for
delay on the part of the owner to file an application for registration of motor vehicle
under sub-section (1) of Section 41 or under sub-section (8) of Section 41 for renewal of
motor vehicles registration. These provisions do not empower the state to make a rule
fixing the fee to be charged for registration of a motor vehicle. It is, therefore, clear that
under the Act, the power to prescribe a fee for registration of motor vehicles is only
conferred on the Central Government, and in exercise of the such power, the Central
Government has already fixed the fee under Rule 81 of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules,
1989.

15. Next, reliance was also placed on Sections 47(7), 49(4) and 50(5) of the Act. The
amicus contended that these provisions specifically conferred powers upon the state to
prescribe amounts as fee for transfer of registration of vehicles on their removal from
one state to another; for obtaining no objection certificate from the registering authority,
and upon transfer of ownership. He therefore, urged that the splitting up of an indivisible
process, by drawing a distinction between “allotment” of numbers by the Centre and
their onward assignment by the state registering authority and the charging of a separate
fee for the latter, was impermissible. The absence of specific provisions enabling the
8

state to prescribe amounts as fees, for particular enumerated services, showed
Parliamentary intent to exclude the state from levying a fee for “assigning” a registered
number, for an act for which the Central government had prescribed a fee under Section
41(2)
. Counsel also urged that the provision of Section 41(2) had the effect of excluding
the power of prescribing any fee in relation to registration of vehicles, including the
state’s powers under Section 65 and 211.

16. Mr. Swaroop sought to contrast the provisions of the now repealed Motor Vehicles
Act
, 1939, with the Act. He contended that Section 41(2) manifested Parliamentary
intent to exclude state power in respect of a subject matter, where such power had
previously existed. He highlighted that under the old law, individual states were free to
prescribe fees according to varying standards. The Act however, was an improvement,
because a single power of one fee, could be prescribed under Section 41(2).

17. The amicus lastly relied on a notification issued by the Central Government 9
which had assigned specified groups of letters “for use as registration mark for each
State and Union Territory to be followed by the code number of the Registering
Authority to be allotted by the State Government or, as the case may be the
Administrator, not exceeding four figures, to be used as registration mark.” It was urged
that the notification, after setting out in tabular form, the letters assigned to various
states and union territories, further directed that whenever the four figures referred to
earlier “reached 9999, the next series shall begin with the alphabet ‘A’ followed by not
more than four figures and thereafter with alphabet ‘B’ followed by not more than four
figures and so on…”

18. Counsel asserted that this exercise exhaustively resulted in allotment of letters and
numbers to the concerned states, which then merely had to follow a procedure of
assigning them, on the basis of a pre-determined sequence. Under no circumstances
could the state or the registering authority pick out a few or some numbers for special
assignment, and charge a separate, higher fee.

9

S.O. 444(E) dated 12 June, 1989.

9

19. Learned counsel relied on Distt. Council of United Khasi and Jaintia Hills v.
Sitimon Sawian10
where, this court construed the term “allot” and held that
“The word “allot” according to standard dictionaries means, distribute by lot, or
in such a way that the recipients have no choice; to assign as a lot or apportion
to; and the word “allotment” means, apportioning; the action of allotting; share
allotted to one; small portion of land let out for cultivation.”

20. It was submitted that allotment of a registration, and prescribing a fee, for that
purpose, under Section 41(2) similarly enfolds within the term, the entire process,
including the kind of application, payment of fee, the form to be used, etc. All these are
within the domain of the Central Government; the state cannot segregate the last limb
and seek to recover a fee for “assigning” the actual number to individuals. Learned
counsel also relied on the judgment in Indian Medical Assn. v. Union of India11, where it
was held that
“66. The word “allot”, in its verb form, is defined by Concise Oxford
Dictionary [ 8th Edn., Oxford University Press (1990)] to include the
meaning of the act to give or apportion to, distribute officially to.
Allotment is what results from such an act i.e. an apportionment. The
word “reserve” is defined to also include the meaning of “order to be
specifically retained or allocated for a particular person”, and the
word “reservation” is the act or an instance of reserving or being
reserved. The word “allocate” is defined to include the meanings of
an act to assign or devote something for a purpose or to a person.”

Mr. Swaroop lastly relied on the decision of this court in Jantia Hill Truck Owners
Assn. v. Shailang Area Coal Dealer & Truck Owner Assn
.12

21. The learned Additional Solicitor General, Mr. Vikramjit Banerjee, appearing for
the Union, supported the state’s position. He urged that under Section 39 of the Act,
every motor vehicle plying on roads should be registered. Section 40 of the Act,
prescribes that such registration is made by the concerned registering authority of the
State Government under whose jurisdiction the owner of the vehicle resides or has a

10
(1971) 3 SCC 708 at p. 712.

11

(2011) 7 SCC 179 at p. 217.

12

(2009) 8 SCC 492 at p. 500.

10

place of business. It is the duty of the concerned registering authority of the State
Government to assign a registration mark to the vehicle as per Section 41(6) of the Act.
Every application for registration of motor vehicles should be accompanied with the fees
as specified by the Central Government. The Central Government has already specified
fees for registration of vehicles under Rule 81 of the Central Rules.

22. The ASG urged that Section 64(d) of the Act empowers the Central Government
to prescribe the manner and the form in which the registration mark of the vehicles is to
be displayed. Accordingly, the Central Government has specified the form and the
manner of display of registration marks on the motor vehicles under Rules 50 and 51 of
the Central Rules. The issue in this case, i.e. relating to the allocation of a particular
registration number concerns the registering authority of the State Government, and not
the Union. It was argued that under Section 65 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, the
State Governments are vested with the power to frame rules on issues pertaining to
registration of motor vehicles, which are not covered under Section 64 of the Act. Under
65(2)(b) of the Act, the appointment, functions and jurisdiction of registering and other
prescribed authorities fall under the purview of the State Government. Moreover, under
Section 65(2)(b) of the Act, the States are vested with power to make rules on any other
matter relating to registration of motor vehicles, which need to be specified. Allocation
of a registration mark is the responsibility of the concerned State Government. The
States are competent to make rules for this purpose.

Provisions of the Act

23. The relevant provisions of the Act are reproduced below:

“39. Necessity for registration.—No person shall drive any motor
vehicle and no owner of a motor vehicle shall cause or permit the
vehicle to be driven in any public place or in any other place unless
the vehicle is registered in accordance with this Chapter and the
certificate of registration of the vehicle has not been suspended or
cancelled and the vehicle carries a registration mark displayed in the
prescribed manner:

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Provided that nothing in this section shall apply to a motor vehicle in
possession of a dealer subject to such conditions as may be prescribed
by the Central Government.

40. Registration, where to be made. — Subject to the provisions of
section 42, section 43 and section 60, every owner of a motor vehicle
shall cause the vehicle to be registered by a registering authority in
whose jurisdiction he has the residence or place of business where the
vehicle is normally kept.

41. Registration, how to be made. — (1) An application by or on
behalf of the owner of a motor vehicle for registration shall be in such
form and shall be accompanied by such documents, particulars and
information and shall be made within such period as may be
prescribed by the Central Government: Provided that where a motor
vehicle is jointly owned by more persons than one, the application
shall be made by one of them on behalf of all the owners and such
applicant shall be deemed to be the owner of the motor vehicle for the
purposes of this Act.

(2) An application referred to in sub-section (1) shall be accompanied
by such fee as may be prescribed by the Central Government.

(3) The registering authority shall issue to the owner of a motor
vehicle registered by it a certificate of registration in such form and
containing such particulars and information and in such manner as
may be prescribed by the Central Government.

(4) In addition to the other particulars required to be included in the
certificate of registration, it shall also specify the type of the motor
vehicle, being a type as the Central Government may, having regard to
the design, construction and use of the motor vehicle, by notification
in the Official Gazette, specify.

(5) The registering authority shall enter the particulars of the
certificate referred to in sub-section (3) in a register to be maintained
in such form and manner as may be prescribed by the Central
Government.

(6) The registering authority shall assign to the vehicle, for display
thereon, a distinguishing mark (in this Act referred to as the
registration mark) consisting of one of the groups of such of those
letters and followed by such letters and figures as are allotted to the
State by the Central Government from time to time by notification in
the Official Gazette, and displayed and shown on the motor vehicle in
such form and in such manner as may be prescribed by the Central
Government.

*****
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64. Power of Central Government to make rules. — The Central
Government may make rules to provide for all or any of the following
matters, namely:

(a) the period within which and the form in which an application shall
be made and the documents, particulars and information it shall
accompany under sub-section (1) of section 41;

(b) the form in which the certificate of registration shall be made and
the particulars and information it shall contain and the manner in
which it shall be issued under sub-section (3) of section 41;

(c) the form and manner in which the particulars of the certificate of
registration shall be entered in the records of the registering authority
under sub-section (5) of section 41;

(d) the manner in which and the form in which the registration mark,
the letters and figures and other particulars referred to in sub-section
(6) of section 41 shall be displayed and shown; 1. Ins. by Act 54 of
1994, s. 19 (w.e.f. 14-11-1994).

(e) the period within which and the form in which the application shall
be made and the particulars and information it shall contain under
sub-section (8) of section 41;

(f) the form in which the application referred to in sub-section (14) of
section 41 shall be made, the particulars and information it shall
contain and the fee to be charged;

(g) the form in which the period within which the application referred
to in sub-section (1) of section 47 shall be made and the particulars it
shall contain;

(h) the form in which and the manner in which the application for “No
Objection Certificate” shall be made under sub-section (1) of section
48
and the form of receipt to be issued under sub-section (2) of section
48
;

(i) the matters that are to be complied with by an applicant before no
objection certificate may be issued under section 48;

(j) the form in which the intimation of change of address shall be
made under sub-section (1) of section 49 and the documents to be
submitted along with the application;

(k) the form in which and the manner in which the intimation of
transfer of ownership shall be made under sub-section (1) of section
50
or under sub-section (2) of section 50 and the document to be
submitted along with the application;

(l) the form in which the application under sub-section (2) or sub-
section (3) of section 51 shall be made;

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(m) the form in which the certificate of fitness shall be issued under
sub-section (1) of section 56 and the particulars and information it
shall contain;

(n) the period for which the certificate of fitness granted or renewed
under section 56 shall be effective;

(o) the fees to be charged for the issue or renewal or alteration of
certificates of registration, for making an entry regarding transfer of
ownership on a certificate of registration, for making or cancelling an
endorsement in respect of agreement of hire-purchase or lease or
hypothecation on a certificate of registration, for certificates of fitness
for registration marks, and for the examination or inspection of motor
vehicles, and the refund of such fees.

(p) any other matter which is to be, or may be, prescribed by the
Central Government.

65. Power of State Government to make rules. — (1) A State
Government may make rules for the purpose of carrying into effect the
provisions of this Chapter other than the matters specified in section

64.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such
rules may provide for—

(a) the conduct and hearing of appeals that may be preferred
under this Chapter (the fees to be paid in respect of such appeals
and the refund of such fees);

(b) the appointment, functions and jurisdiction of registering and
other prescribed authorities;

(c) the exemption of road-rollers, graders and other vehicles
designed and used solely for the construction, repair and
cleaning of roads from all or any of the provisions of this
Chapter and the rules made thereunder and the conditions
governing such exemption;

(d) the issue or renewal of certificates of registration and fitness
and duplicates of such certificates to replace the certificates lost,
destroyed or mutilated;

(e) the production of certificates of registration before the
registering authority for the revision of entries therein of
particulars relating to the gross vehicle weight;

(f) the temporary registration of motor vehicles, and the issue of
temporary certificate of registration and marks;

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(g) the manner in which the particulars referred to in sub-section
(2) of section 58 and other prescribed particulars shall be
exhibited;

(h) the exemption of prescribed persons or prescribed classes of
persons from payment of all or any portion of the fees payable
under this Chapter;

(i) the forms, other than those prescribed by the Central
Government, to be used for the purpose of this Chapter;

(j) the communication between registering authorities of
particulars of certificates of registration and by owners of
vehicles registered outside the State of particulars of such
vehicles and of their registration;

(k) the amount or amounts under sub-section (13) of section 41
or sub-section (7) of section 47 or sub-section (4) of section 49
or sub-section (5) of section 50;

(l) the extension of the validity of certificates of fitness pending
consideration of applications for their renewal;

(m) the exemption from the provisions of this Chapter, and the
conditions and fees for exemption, of motor vehicles in the
possession of dealers;

(n) the form in which and the period within which the return
under section 62 shall be sent;

(o) the manner in which the State Register of Motor Vehicles
shall be maintained under section 63;

(p) any other matter which is to be or may be prescribed.”

**************

211. Power to levy fee. — Any rule which the Central Government or
the State Government is empowered to make under this Act may,
notwithstanding the absence of any express provision to that effect,
provide for the levy of such fees in respect of applications, amendment
of documents, issue of certificates, licences, permits, tests,
endorsements, badges, plates, countersignatures, authorisation,
supply of statistics or copies of documents or orders and for any other
purpose or matter involving the rendering of any service by the
officers or authorities under this Act or any rule made thereunder as
may be considered necessary:

Provided that the Government may, if it considers necessary so to
do, in the public interest, by general or special order, exempt any class
of persons from the payment of any such fee either in part or in full.”
15

Analysis and Conclusions

24. As is evident from the relevant extracts of the Act, Section 39 obliges every
vehicle owner to secure a registration; every owner has to register his vehicle by
approaching the registering authority (designated by the State by virtue of Section
65(2)(b)
13 of the Act).

25. Section 41(1), the next in sequence, enables the Central Government to prescribe
the form for application for such registration. There are two provisos to this; the second
proviso added in 2019 states that in case of a new motor vehicle, the application for
registration in that State shall be made by the dealer of such motor vehicle, if the new
motor vehicle is registered in the same State. By Section 41(2), the application for
registration has to be accompanied by “such fee as may be prescribed by the Central
Government.” By Section 41(3), the registering authority has to issue the certificate of
registration in the name of the owner in such form containing the relevant particulars as
prescribed by the Central Government.

26. Section 41(6) the interplay of which, with Section 41(2), is directly in issue –
enacts that the registering authority “shall assign to the vehicle for display thereon a
distinguishing mark consisting of one of the groups of such of those letters and followed
by such letters and figures as are allotted to the State by the Central Government from
time to time”. Now, this provision is divided into two parts. Although the duty of the
registering authority to assign the “distinguishing mark” has been enacted as the first
event, in reality, in sequence, the allotment of groups of letters followed by such letters
and figures (which find mention in the latter part of the provision), that are allotted to
the State by the Central Government would be an event that occurs prior to the
assignment of such distinguishing mark and number. The notification of 12.06.1989

13
Section 65(2)(b) of the Act reads as follows:

(2) without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for:

xxxx xxxx xxxx

(b) the appointment, functions and jurisdiction of registering and other prescribed authorities.

16

issued by the Central Government in exercise of this power to allocate numbers under
Section 41(6) has allocated distinguished groups of letters to each individual State and
UT. According to the notification, this group of letters is to be followed by the code
number of the registering authority “to be allocated by the State Government or the
Administrator of the UT”. The notification, after setting out the groups of letters, goes
on to state that where four figures referred to earlier in it, (i.e. the notification) reaches
9999, the next series shall begin with the alphabet A followed by not more than four
figures and thereafter with alphabet B, and so on. This notification from its facial
reading clothes the state government or the UT administration, with the distinct task of
allotting the code number and thereafter assigning the numerics (the four numbers in
question).

27. The reasoning of the High Court, in its impugned judgment is that the field of
prescribing the fee for an application for registration has been exclusively conferred
upon the Union Government, thus excluding from its sweep any State power to claim
any manner of fee or amount as part of that task. The amicus characterized the impugned
Rule 55A as segregating and separating the last step in one indivisible process of
allotment of a registration mark.

28. The High Court, in addition, also concluded that Section 211 was of no
consequence and could not be pressed into service by the State Government inasmuch as
the field of charging fees for allotment of registration numbers was fully occupied by
Section 41(2). It also held that by the same logic, the state had no power to make rules
under Section 65(2) to charge any fee in this regard. The amicus had made reference to
Section 65(2)(k) which explicitly talks of the power of the State to prescribe the amount
or amounts payable under Section 41(13); Section 47(7), Section 49(4) or Section 50(5).
Each of these provisions was also relied upon to state that whenever Parliament intended
to empower the State Government to charge fee or amounts, it did so expressly and that
the rule of expressio unius est exclusio alterius applied in the circumstances.

17

29. This Court is of the opinion that the High Court, in its impugned judgement, lost
sight of the true import of Section 211. The existence of specific provisions empowering
the State (such as Sections 41(13), 47(7), 49(4) and 50(5)), means that the power of the
State to claim or charge amounts is specifically recognized by express provisions.
Further, there are certain services and functions for which the State is empowered to
levy fees. It is precisely to cover these contingencies, i.e. where the service is rendered
or some function performed, that the State is empowered by a residual provision (much
like the Central Government with which it shares the power concurrently) to levy fees.
In this respect, it would be useful to note that Section 211 is cast in wide terms and that
any rule which the Central Government or the State Government is empowered to make
under this Act may, notwithstanding the absence of any express provision to that effect,
provide for the levy of such fees in respect of applications, amendment of documents,
issue of certificates, licences, permits, tests, endorsements, badges, plates,
countersignatures, authorisation, supply of statistics or copies of documents or orders
and for any other purpose or matter involving the rendering of any service. Clearly,
therefore, the Parliament intended that contingencies not covered by a specific power to
levy fees or amounts, which entailed some activity on the part of the State, including
rendering of any service could be legitimately charged or subjected to the levy of fee or
amounts.

30. The assignment of numbers by the registering authority, as seen earlier, through an
official/agency or department notified by the State Government, cannot be seen as a
mere step – albeit at the fag-end of the registration allotment process. In fact, though it is
the culmination of the allotment process, it is nevertheless an important step. The state,
in the opinion of this Court, is entitled to indicate its choice or manner of assigning by
prescribing a particular set of procedures for the assignment of numbers. Thus, for
instance, the assignment of the concerned “code” – to the individual registering
authorities followed by the assignment of numerics may follow a predetermined pattern
which may be district wise, state government department wise (in the case of publicly
18

owned vehicles), different sequences for buses and heavy vehicles and so on. If such a
predetermined choice can be made by prescribing the mode of assignment, it is both
regulatory and at the same time indicative of State policy. Per se, the Court cannot brush
aside the element of service which may be involved – especially if the general public or
a sub-section of it, wishes to choose particular numbers for various considerations. Such
“fancy” numbers or “auspicious” numbers may well therefore have to be set apart
having regard to the peculiar socio-cultural needs of the people of the state. It is in such
an event that the availability of such numbers and their reservation as a choice and the
power of their assignment assumes importance. In the impugned Rule 55A14 in the

14
55A. Allotment of registration mark. – (1) On receipt of an application made in writing by any person to the registering
authority for reservation of registration mark, the registering authority shall reserve the registration mark in the following
manner:-

(a) Registration marks from 1 to 9 in any series prevalent within the jurisdiction of Registering Authority, shall be reserved
on payment of fee of Rs. 15,000/- (Rupees Fifteen Thousand) for each registration mark.

(b) For reservation of registration mark from number 10 to 100 in any series prevalent within the jurisdiction of the
Registering Authority, on payment of fee of Rs. 12,000/- (Rupees Twelve Thousand) for each registration mark.

(c) For reservation of registration mark number, 101, 111, 123, 200, 202, 222, 234, 300, 303, 333, 345, 400, 404, 444, 456,
500, 505, 555, 567, 600, 606, 678, 700, 707, 777, 786, 789, 800, 808, 888, 900, 909, 999, 1000, 1001, 1010, 1111, 1112,
1212, 1213, 1221, 1234, 1313, 1314, 1331, 1414, 1415, 1515, 1516, 1616, 1617, 1661, 1717, 1718, 1771, 1818, 1819, 1881,
1919, 1929, 1991, 2000, 2002, 2020, 2021, 2112, 2121, 2122, 2222, 2223, 2323, 2324, 2332, 2345, 2424, 2425, 2442, 2525,
2526, 2552, 2626, 2627, 2662, 2727, 2728, 2772, 2828, 2829, 2882, 2929, 2930, 2992, 3000, 3003, 3030, 3113, 3131, 3132,
3223, 3232, 3233, 3333, 3334, 3434, 3435, 3443, 3456, 3535, 3536, 3553, 3636, 3637, 3663, 3737, 3738, 3773, 3838, 3839,
3883, 3939, 3940, 3994, 4000, 4004, 4040, 4041, 4114, 4141, 4142, 4224, 4242, 4243, 4334, 4343, 4344, 4444, 4445, 4545,
4546, 4554, 4567, 4646, 4647, 4664, 4747, 4748, 4774, 4848, 4849, 4884, 4949, 4950, 4994, 5000, 5005, 5050, 5051, 5115,
5151, 5152, 5225, 5252, 5253, 5335, 5353, 5354, 5445, 5454, 5455, 5555, 5556, 5656, 5657, 5665, 5678, 5757, 5758, 5775,
5858, 5859, 5885, 5959, 5960, 5995, 6000, 6006, 6060, 6061, 6116, 6161, 6162, 6226, 6262, 6263, 6336, 6363, 6364, 6446,
6464, 6465, 6558, 6565, 6666, 6667, 6767, 6768, 6776, 6789, 6869, 6886, 6969, 6970, 6996, 7000, 7007, 7070, 7071, 7117,
7171, 7172, 7227, 7272, 7273, 7337, 7373, 7374, 7447, 7474, 7475, 7557, 7575, 7576, 7667, 7676, 7677, 7777, 7778, 787 8,
7887, 7979, 7980, 7997, 8000, 8008, 8080, 8081, 8181, 8182, 8228, 8282, 8283, 8338, 8383, 8384, 8448, 8484, 8558, 8585,
8586, 8668, 8686, 8687, 8778, 8787, 8788, 8888, 8889, 8989, 8998, 9(X)0, 9009, 9090, 9091, 9119, 9191, 9192, 9229,
9292, 9293, 9339, 9393, 9394, 9449, 9494, 9495, 9559, 9595, 9596, 9669, 9696, 9697, 9779, 9797, 9798, 9889, 9898, 9899,
9999, on payment of fee of Rupees 10,000/- (Rupees Ten Thousand) for each registration mark.

(d) For reservation of any other number not specified in subclauses (a), (b) and (c) of this rule within thousand numbers
from the last number assigned in serial order on payment of a fee of Rs. 2000/- (Rupees Two Thousand) for each
registration mark.

(2) The Registering Authority while reserving the registration mark on the application of any person shall strictly adhere to
the following guidelines :-

(a) The Registering Authority shall reserve the registration mark on the basis of ‘first come first served’ principle.

(b) If there is more than one application on a day for particular registration mark as specified above the reservation of
registration mark shall be done in accordance with the serial number on the cash receipt regarding payment of the amount
of fee.

19

present instance, introduced in 2001 through amendment by the State of M.P., prescribes
four different fees – ₹15000/- for the registration marks 1 to 9 in any series prevalent
within the jurisdiction of the registering authority; and ₹ 12000/- for reservation of
marks from 10 to 100 in any series within the jurisdiction of the registering authority.
For reservation of large series of numbers indicated in Rule 55A(c), ₹ 10000/- and ₹
2000/- for reservation of any other number or numbers within 1000 from the last number
assigned in the serial order.

31. In addition to charging such fees, the registering authority is enjoined by Rule
55A(2) to follow the principle of first-come-first-serve in reserving particular numbers;
and to allot the registration mark reserved upon production of the vehicle along with the
application in Form-20 (of the Central Rules), provided the vehicle is compliant with the
provisions of the Act and Rules. By Rule 55A(d), the reservation of the mark would be
cancelled if the vehicle is not produced for allotment within three months from the date
of allotment. Obviously, this is meant to avoid abuse of the reservation process by
trafficking in numbers, by providing finite time within which such numbers can be used.

32. Quite like in the case of fees for assignment of particular numbers, certain other
services too are contemplated under the Act. Section 56(1)15 directs that no transport
vehicle would be deemed to be validly registered unless it carries a certificate of fitness.

(c) The registration mark reserved shall be allotted on production of the vehicle alongwith the application in Form-20 of the
Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 and when the vehicle is found complying with the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act,
1988 and the rules made thereunder for registration of a motor, vehicle.

(d) The reservation of registration mark shall stand automatically cancelled if the vehicle is not produced for allotment of
registration number within three months from the date of reservation of registration mark.

(e) The amount of the fee paid for reservation of registration mark shall not be refundable.

(f) The registration mark cancelled under clause (d) can be re-reserved by the Registering Authority in accordance with the
above procedure.

15

56. Re-assignment of registration number under certain condition. – (1) State Government may, by general or special
order, direct all Registering Authority of the State, to reassign the new number under the Act, in place of number allotted
under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 (No. 4 of 1939) in respect of all or any class of vehicles and also prescribe the manner
and condition thereof, and the provision of sub-section (6) of Section 41 of the Act shall apply in this respect.
(2) State Government while issuing order under sub-rule (1), shall provide a reasonable time which shall not be less than
six months within which the owner of such vehicle shall obtain new number.
(3) No fee shall be charged for the assignment of new number under sub-rule (1), if the owner applies within the prescribed
time. Where the application is received after the expiry of prescribed period, a late fee of Rs. 100/- shall be payable.

20

Such fitness certificate is to be issued by authorized testing stations [by Section 56(2)].
Section 43 enables the owner of a motor vehicle to apply to any registering authority or
other authority which may be prescribed by the State Government to have the vehicle
temporarily registered. This provision contains a non-obstante clause. Various provisions
of the Act deal with orders of higher authorities and appellate authorities. Implicit with
this is the power to issue copies of such decisions. Further, in cases where individuals or
parties interested seek to duplicate or acquire extra copies of such orders, a separate
category of service is provided. Likewise, wherever duplicates of documents such as
Registration Certificates etc. are issued, necessarily, a service is performed. Rule 62 of
the M.P. Rules of 1994 provided for fees to be charged in respect of various such
services (temporary registration or extension thereof in different classes of vehicles);
copies of miscellaneous applications, duplicate certificate of fitness for different classes
of vehicles and so on. An overall reading of the M.P. Rules and the Act therefore clearly
establishes that besides the express authorization to levy fees or collect amounts, both
the Central Government and the State Government are empowered – in fact duty bound
to extend certain services in the performance of such duties. Both these bodies, i.e. the
Central and State Governments would therefore, be acting within their authority to
charge or levy fees.

33. If there are any further doubts on this issue, the generality of the power under
Section 65(1) to frame rules, in the opinion of this Court is sufficient along with Section
211
, to conclude that the State Government has the authority to prescribe a fee for
reserving certain numbers or distinguishing marks to be assigned as registration
numbers. It has not been shown how the setting apart of or reservation of some numbers
– here, a fraction of the large potential batch of numbers which the registering authority
can otherwise assign to vehicles, is per se arbitrary or unreasonable. Neither were any
such arguments urged before this Court.

34. This Court has in the past observed that whenever a State confers rule making
power or empowers delegated legislation, i.e. and where or wherever the statute first
21

lays out a general provision authorizing subordinate legislation or the framing of
separate legislation to carry out the purposes of that Act, and uses the expression “in
particular and without generality of the foregoing powers”, followed by another
delegation which enumerates specific powers preceded by expressions such as “in
particular and without the generality of the foregoing powers,” the particularization is
only illustrative and does not subsume the general power. The State had relied upon the
decision in Academy of Nutrition (supra) which was to that effect. There are other
decisions as well on this issue.16

35. This court has, in the past, held that when a central enactment clothes the state
with the power, or tasks it to do a thing such as grant of lease of minor minerals, an
implicit power to charge lease rent or royalty must be read into the state’s power. In D.K.
Trivedi & Sons v. State of Gujarat
, the court held:17
“40. the grant of a mining lease would thus provide for the
consideration for such grant in the shape of surface rent, dead rent
and royalty. The power to make rules for regulating the grant of such
leases would, therefore, include the power to fix the consideration
payable by the lessee to the lessor in the shape of ordinary rent or
surface rent, dead rent and royalty. If this were not so, it would lead
to the absurd result that when the government grants a mining lease,
it is granted gratis to a person who wants to extract minerals and
profit from them. Rules for regulating the grant of mining leases
cannot be confined merely to rules providing for the form in which
applications for such leases are to be made, the factors to be taken
into account in granting or refusing such applications and other
cognate matters. Such rules must necessarily include provisions with
respect to the consideration for the grant. Under Section 15(1),
therefore, the State Governments have the power to make rules

16
See Afzal Ullah v. State of U.P. (1964) 4 SCR 991 which held that:
“It is now well settled that the specific provisions such as are contained in the several clauses of Section 298(2) are
merely illustrative and they cannot be read as restrictive of the generality of powers prescribed by Section 298(1)
(vide King Emperor v. Sibnath Banerji (AIR 1945 PC 156] ). If the powers specified by Section 298(1) are very wide
and they take in within their scope bye-laws like the ones with which we are concerned in the present appeal, it cannot
be said that the powers enumerated under Section 298(2) control the general words used by Section 298(1).”
Refer also: Rohtak & Hissar District Electric Supply Co Ltd v State of UP 1966 (2) SCR 863; Bharat Sanchar Nigam
Ltd v. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
and (2014) 3 SCC 222; K. Ramanathan v. State of Tamil Nadu (1985) 2
SCC 116.

17

(1986) Supp. SCC 20, at p. 54.

22

providing for payment of surface rent, dead rent and royalty by the
lessee to the government.”

36. In Jaintia Hill Truck Owners Assn18, this court had pertinently observed in the
context of services rendered by weighment, through third party, agencies, where the
state enabled charging of fee, that:

“28. Where the State or the State-controlled agencies render services
for the purpose of effectuation of the provisions of a Central Act, it, in
our opinion, is entitled to charge a reasonable amount in respect
thereof. We may, in this behalf, refer to a decision of this Court in T.
Cajee v. U. Jormanik Siem
[AIR 1961 SC 276 : (1961) 1 SCR 750] .
The question which arose for consideration therein was as to whether
in absence of any law regulating the appointment and succession of
chiefs and headmen, a notice issued to the respondent therein to show
cause as to why he should not be removed from his office, was valid.”

37. The decision cited in Jaintia Hill (supra) – i.e., T. Cajee v U. Jormanik Siem19
considered the validity of appointment of a village headman by an autonomous district
council, under provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India. The High
Court upheld the argument that a conferment of legislative power (conferred upon the
District Council) if not exercised, did not empower the council to issue appointment in
the absence of rules. This court disapproved the High Court’s reasoning and held that:

“With respect, it seems to us that the High Court has read far more
into Para 3(1)(g) than is justified by its language. Para 3(1) is in fact
something like a legislative list and enumerates the subjects on which
the District Council is competent to make laws. Under Para 3(1)(g) it
has power to make laws with respect to the appointment or succession
of Chiefs or Headmen and this would naturally include the power to
remove them. But it does not follow from this that the appointment or
removal of a Chief is a legislative act or that no appointment or
removal can be made without there being first a law to that effect. The
High Court also seems to have thought that as there was no provision
in the Sixth Schedule in terms of Articles 73 and 162 of the

18
Supra, fn. 12.

19

1961 (1) SCR 750.

23

Constitution, the administrative power of the District Council would
not extend to the subjects enumerated in Para 3(1). Now Para 2(4)
provides that the administration of an autonomous district shall vest
in the District Council and this in our opinion is comprehensive
enough to include all such executive powers as are necessary to be
exercised for the purposes of the administration of the district…”

38. The other decision, cited in Jaintia Hill (supra), i.e., Surinder Singh v. Central
Government20
states the proposition in the following terms:

“Where a statute confers powers on an authority to do certain acts or
exercise power in respect of certain matters, subject to rules, the
exercise of power conferred by the statute does not depend on the
existence of rules unless the statute expressly provides for the same. In
other words framing of the rules is not a condition precedent to the
exercise of the power expressly and unconditionally conferred by the
statute. The expression ‘subject to the rules’ only means, in
accordance with the rules, if any. If rules are framed, the powers so
conferred on authority could be exercised in accordance with these
rules. But if no rules are framed there is no void and the authority is
not precluded from exercising the power conferred by the statute.”

39. This court therefore, holds that the assignment of “distinctive marks” i.e.
registration numbers to motor vehicles (which includes the power to reserve and allocate
them, for a specific fee) is a distinct service for which states or their authorities (such as
the registering authorities, in this case) are entitled to charge a prescribed fee. Rule 55A
of the MP Rules is not therefore, in excess of the powers conferred upon the state, by the
Act or the Central Rules.

40. This court notices that the impugned judgment proceeded on the assumption that
the state was not competent to make the legislation. The use of that expression, at best
can be characterized as misconceived. In the present case, the state of M.P. derived its
powers to frame the concerned rules, through the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act
itself. The question, therefore, of repugnance as properly understood, did not arise;
rather it was a case whether the state government, as one of the delegated authorities,
20
(1986) 4 SCC 667.

24

was empowered through Parliamentary law to frame the rule that it did. At best, the
issue that arose was whether the offending rule (Rule 55A) was ultra vires the Act or the
Central Rules. In the opinion of this court, the impugned rule was within the ambit of the
powers delegated to the state, and directly related to performance of its functions under
Section 41(6), for which it could legitimately claim a fee, as was done through Rule
55A.

41. Before parting with this judgment, the court records its gratitude to Mr. Manoj
Swaroop, Senior Advocate for acting as amicus and ably marshalling all arguments that
could be mustered to assist this court.

42. The appeal has to succeed, in view of the above reasoning. The impugned
judgment is therefore set aside. The appeal is accordingly allowed, but without an order
as to costs.

……………………………………………….J
[L. NAGESWARA RAO]

……………………………………………….J
[S. RAVINDRA BHAT]

New Delhi,
August 26, 2020.



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