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The Calcutta High Court has in its recent judgment, held that a person is not obliged to hand over his driving license on demand to a police officer who is not in his uniform, in view of Section 130 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

The bench headed by Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya was hearing a writ petition filed by the petitioner, Suryaneel Das, who alleged that he was intimidated and threatened by two men dressed in civilian clothes, and seized his driving license, without even issuance of any temporary authorization slip. The petitioner told the court that while he was talking on the phone, two men came up to him, asked him to disconnect the phone and step out of the car to answer some queries. On the petitioner’s insistence, they gave him a compound slip after the license was seized. However, this slip did not disclose the identity of the impounding officers either.

Observing the above contentions, the bench stated that “A police officer is supposed to be a protector of Justice, a much higher obligation is expected from the police than a common citizen concerning protecting the law by following due process of law, in view of Section 130 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.”

The court ruled in favor of the petitioner, stating that the police officers had violated the Motor Vehicles Act in seizing the driver’s license while not in uniform.

“Nothing has been disclosed as to the police being in uniform when they seized the driving license and, as such, there was no duty cast upon the petitioner, who was the driver of the vehicle-in-question, to hand over his license at all and the seizure of the license was palpably under coercion on the part of the police officer involved, who was not even in uniform” held the bench.

Meanwhile, the police tried to justify its conduct by relying on Section 206 of the Motor Vehicles Act which allows the seizure of driving license where it is suspected that the driver may abscond or avoid legal summons when such a person is charged with an offense. However, the court rejected the said submissions of the Police and stated that “it could at best take resort to Section 177 of the Act and impose a fine of Rs.100/- as stipulated for a first offense.”

Further, the court while disposing of the writ petition, alongside directed the police authorities to immediately return the driving license to the petitioner.

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