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In a significant order, Calcutta High Court has noted that a police officer doesn’t have the power to suspend the driving licence of a person. Only licensing authority is allowed to issue or suspend the driving licence under Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

The provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 show that only a licencing authority can disqualify a person from holding or obtaining a driving licence or revoke such licence. Licencing authority has been defined in section 2(20) and does not include any authority other than an authority empowered to issue licences. Section 206 refers to the power of the licencing authority to disqualify or revoke under section 19 and limits the power of a police officer to impound a document; this is by restricting the power of the police only to seize the driving licence and forward it to the licencing authority for disqualification or revocation,” noted the single-judge bench of Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya.

The state government was relying on its notification dated November 23, 2016, where the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) and Superintendent of Police of the Districts were empowered to act in terms of Section 19 for disqualifying offending drivers or revoking their licences in case of a necessity to ensure effective control of traffic under Chapter VIII of the Act.

The bench noted that though the notification talks about Section 19 of the Act, there is no evidence to suggest that the relevant provisions of the West Bengal Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 were amended to reflect the authorization given to the Police.

The bench stated, “The Notification in fact mentions that the Rules will be suitably amended in due course. Since the Motor Vehicles Act gives the power, in no uncertain terms, to the licensing authority and limits the power of the police to disqualify a person or revoke his licence under the Act, this Court is of the view that a later Notification issued by the State Transport Department cannot override the provisions of the parent Act.”

The notification under a provision of any statute must be in aid of and in sync with the statutory scheme, the bench added. The bench stated that the notification resulted in confusion as to the licencing powers.

The order was issued over the petition filed by a woman challenging the suspension of her licence by the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Kolkata on May 20, 2022, for overspeeding.

The police suspended her driving licence on the ground that she was driving at a speed of 60 km per hour on a road which permitted speed of 30 km per hour.

The court quashed the suspension of her licence by ACP. However, the bench refused to consider her excuse for overspeeding that she crossed the speed limit because she was in a hurry to check on her nine months old baby girl. The petitioner submitted that the baby was unwell and all alone in the home.

The bench noted, “the petitioner has admitted to overspeeding and has also come before this Court almost after 2 months from the date of the impugned order. The excuse for overspeeding is no ground at all since the petitioner should have a sufficient eco-system in place and not become a risk to other travelers on the road.”

 

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