The Supreme Court on Thursday lifted the freeze on registration of BS-IV vehicles sold during the initial days of the Covid-19 lockdown until March 31.
Modifying its July 31 order, a bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari said: “Those vehicles sold and registered during the month of March on the E-Vahan portal and those vehicles whose temporary registrations were made, to that extent, registration is allowed. We cannot allow registration of [39,937] vehicles not uploaded on the E-Vahan portal [of the ministry of road, transport and highways].”
The court on July 31 ordered the freeze after it saw abnormally high sale of vehicles in the days leading up to March 31 when business across the country came to a standstill on account of a nationwide lockdown announced in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The court on Thursday went by a chart presented by the ministry, which verified details of vehicles sold and registered on e-Vahan from March 12-31. As per the Federation of Automobile Traders Association (FADA), a total of 2,25,257 vehicles were sold during this period. On verification, the ministry found data of 1,45,152 vehicles on its portal that were granted permanent registration while 29,834 were awaiting registration. These vehicles can now be registered as per the court’s latest order.
Out of the balance 50,261 vehicles, the ministry contacted states which are yet to connect on the e-Vahan portal. These states included Andhra Pradesh, and few regional transport offices in Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Andaman Nicobar Islands, and Lakshadweep. The Centre located data of 10,324 vehicles in these states but found no details about 39,937 vehicles shown as sold by FADA. The court refused to permit registration of this category of vehicles.
Prior to passing the order, the bench asked senior advocate KV Vishwanathan, who appeared for FADA, to explain how so many vehicles were sold during the lockdown. The court told Vishwanathan that on March 27, the court allowed the sale of vehicles beyond March 31 in lieu of the difficulty faced by automobile dealers due to lockdown restrictions.
According to the ministry, between March 12 and March 31, the e-Vahan portal recorded sales of 9,56,015 vehicles which included two-wheelers, three-wheelers, commercial and passenger vehicles. The maximum sales occurred on March 29 (78,525), March 30 (94,054) and March 31 (55,334).
Vishwanathan explained that several vehicles were sold online while some were sold by dealers that were later sold as second-hand vehicles.
“There is no advantage being taken of the court’s order. We want to dispel the notion that the FADA has tried to manipulate or play fraud on the court. The dealers were under tremendous pressure to sell the stock prior to March 31. For this reason, attractive discounts were offered. Now by denying registration, they will be placed in great financial distress.”
The dealers even pointed out that during March, several days were auspicious, which recorded heavy sales. But the bench refused to accept this argument and said, “We will not permit mahurat sales. It cannot violate the law. We will make it un-mahurat (unauspicious) for you.”
The bench was even keen to knock out the sale of BS-IV vehicles in Delhi as it felt this was impermissible under orders passed on October 24, 2018. But Vishwanathan clarified to the court that the restriction on the sale of BS-IV vehicles in Delhi was applicable to the sale post-March 31 and not prior in time.