Both owner and driver liable under Motor Vehicles Act for carrying excess load in goods carriage: Kerala High Court

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The Kerala High Court recently held that the registered owner of a goods carriage as well as it driver are liable for carrying excess weight in it, as per the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (MV Act) [Fasaludeen A & Ors. v State of Kerala].

Justice Ziyad Rahman AA clarified that in such cases, both the driver and the registered owner have committed two separate offenses, namely, the driving of a vehicle with excess weight (unladen or laden), and causing or allowing the driving of the vehicle with excess weight.

“The offense which is specified under Sub-section (3) of Section 113 starts with the words “no person shall drive or cause or allow to be driven in any public place any motor vehicle or trailer” … Therefore, it is evident that both the acts, namely, the driving of a vehicle with excess weight (unladen or laden) as well as causing or allowing the driving of the vehicle with excess weight, would attract the offenses, and these are separate offenses which could be committed by different person … by virtue of the stipulation contained in Subsection (3), the registered owners are liable to be prosecuted for the offense under Subsection (3) of Section 113 of the Motor Vehicles Act,” the court said.

The Court was considering a bunch of petitions filed by various owners and drivers of goods carriages challenging the prosecution initiated against them by the Motor Vehicles Inspector.

The common allegation against the petitioners in all the cases was that they carried the excess load in their goods carriages and, thereby, committed the offences punishable under Sections 113(3)(b) read with Section 194(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

The counsel for petitioners contended that the complaint filed against them specified an amount of penalty that has to be paid by them if found guilty and it also contained a prayer directing them to pay the fine as per the rates stipulated in a Government Order.

The Court said that the complaint cannot be vitiated merely on this ground even though it is true that these complaints refer to a government order and also direct a specified amount to be paid.

If there are sufficient averments in the complaint for prosecuting the accused on the basis of materials placed on record, nothing would preclude the court from taking cognizance, the High Court opined.

The counsel for the petitioners further contended that the prosecution against them was wrong because the officers concerned of the MV department did not pass any orders directing the drivers to off-load the excess weight.

The Court said that this too would not vitiate the proceedings against the petitioners because the offence has already been committed by the accused.

“As far as the issuance of an order to offload the excess weight is concerned, the same is a subsequent event after the detection of the offense. Once the vehicle was found to be carrying excess weight, the offense under Subsection (3) of Section 113 would get attracted, and merely because of the reason that the officer concerned failed to pass an order directing the driver to off-load the excess weight, the proceedings would not be vitiated and efface the offense already committed by the accused persons. Moreover, the word used in Section 114 with regard to the issuance of an order to off-load the excess weight is ‘may’, and therefore it can only be interpreted as an enabling provision that empowers the Officer concerned to pass such a direction so as to avoid continued violation of Subsection (3) of Section 113 of the Motor Vehicles Act. Therefore, I do not find any merit in that contention as well,” the Court elaborated.

Consequently, the Court dismissed all the petitions.

The petitioners were represented by advocates PM Ziraj, Irfan Ziraj and Aboobacker Sidheeque.

The respondents were represented by advocates MP Prashanth, Sreeja V and Sangeetharaj NR.

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