Madras High Court upholds Notification Prohibiting Crash Guards and Bull Bars in Motor Vehicles
The Madras High Court upheld the notification dated 7 December, 2017 issued by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, prohibiting crash guards and bull bars in motor vehicles.
Multiple petitions were placed before the Division Bench of the High Court of Madras, comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu challenging the implementation of the notification dated 7 December, 2017 issued by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
The notification dated 7 December, 2017 was issued in order to advise all States and Union Territories to ensure that the crash guards in motor vehicles were not permitted as, according to the Union, it was in contravention of Section 52 of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988, which attracted penalty under Sections 190 and 191 of the Act. This matter was about the use of crash guards or bull bars in motor vehicles as several vehicles did not come factory fitted with additional guards in front of the engine, but which were subsequently fitted to protect the impact of any frontal crash on the engine.
The Petitioners – Manufacturers contended that there was no basis to the relevant notification, nor was it evident that any empirical study was conducted to ascertain the perceived ill-effects of crash guards. On the other hand, the Respondent – Authorities had accepted the Union's instructions and enforced the prohibition in such regard in the State.
In order to understand the matter, the Court went through Section 52 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 which prohibited the owner of a motor vehicle from altering the vehicle such that the particulars contained in the certificate of registration are at variance with those originally specified by the manufacturer. However, its second proviso allowed for the alteration of motor vehicles through the authority of the Central Government by prescribing specifications, conditions for approval, retro fitment, etc. The Court noted that the explanation at the end of this section indicated that alteration would imply a change in the structure of the vehicle which resulted in a change in its basic feature.
The Court further noted that crash guards added to the length of the car, provided greater security to the front of a car but altered the basic features of a motor vehicle and thus this was sufficient basis for the issuance of the notification dated 7 December, 2017. The Court therefore, chose not to interfere and observed the following:
"At the end of the day, it appears that public interest may have impelled the Central Government to issue the notice and, on a matter of policy where the Central Government perceives that a thing is necessary in public interest, the court would not willy-nilly intervene unless it finds the policy to be absurd or objectionable to the meanest mind."
The Court, therefore, disposed of these petitions by upholding the notification and ruling that this order would not prevent any representation made by the Petitioners – Manufacturers of crash guards to the Union.