A resident of Jammu and Kashmir reportedly located himself on the completely wrong side of the regulation for modifying his Mahindra Thar and was sentenced to six months in jail. The modifications he is reported to have made to his auto contain a tough top, larger wheel and tyres as nicely as a large car siren. It is therefore essential to examine to what extent a consumer can make modifications to his auto. This is critical for the reason that generating modifications might invite authorized proceedings.
Individuals are pressured to make alterations simply because manufacturers unfold features across unique variants which may possibly be out of their reach when in the beginning acquiring the auto. For example, a base variant of a car may have lesser tyres than the greater variant or may not have a touchscreen method which has the feature of Apple CarPlay and Android Automobile which are arguably vital in 2022. Therefore, a purchaser who can’t find the money for the highest variant could obtain the lessen variant and later on, as income gets to be accessible goes and adds these attributes to his vehicle. Perhaps this is why automakers like BMW have decide to swap to a subscription design which includes them inputting the required components expected and producing it membership based, so you can invest in the automobile but activate other features later on.
Add-ons not exceeding two per cent of the vehicle’s bodyweight specified in the certificate of registration are permissible in India. Nevertheless, alterations which alter the essential framework of the vehicle so as to change its basic attributes have been created illegal in India by advantage of Portion 52 of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 which was later on amended in 2000 and once again not long ago in 2019.
This article seeks to take a look at the scope and ambit of Area 52 of the Motor Vehicles Act and the permissible limits of automobile alteration in India.
An evaluation of the components of Part 52 of the Motor Cars Act, 1988 informs us that:
- No proprietor of a motor car or truck can alter the auto at variance with the particulars contained in the certification of registration specified by the maker.
- The motor or any component of it can be modified or altered to guarantee that it is operate by a distinctive gasoline or battery or liquified petroleum gas or any other source of strength by fitting a conversion kit. The Central Govt can prescribe specifications, situations, ailments of acceptance, retro fitment and other associated issues for such conversion kits and the modifications have to comply with these circumstances.
- The Central Government can prescribe specifications, disorders for approval, retrofitment and other linked matters for the alteration of motor automobiles and in this sort of case, the warranty granted by the producer will not be deemed void for the purposes of these alteration or retrofitment.
- A individual can get subsequent approval of the registering authority for alterations and transform his automobile into an adapted vehicle which must comply with the ailments recommended by the central authorities.
- Alterations designed with no prior acceptance of the registering authority will have to be introduced to its see in fourteen times of creating the alteration. The certificate of registration along with fee has to be offered.
- The Central Government can exempt alterations of autos in a manner if not than the specified way for any specific objective.
- If an alteration has been manufactured without the prior approval of the RTO, then the proprietor of the car ought to report the alteration to the RTO in just 14 times of earning the alteration alongside with the certificate of registration and the prescribed cost.
An alteration is stated in the Segment as this means a change in the structure of the auto resulting in a alter in its primary element.
The punishment for alterations is uncovered in Area 182-A of the Act. In accordance to Portion 182-A(1) if a company, importer or dealer helps make or delivers to alterations which violate chapter VII of the Act or principles and restrictions the punishment will be a greatest of a person 12 months in jail or with a fantastic of just one lakh rupees per the automobile or both.
Additional, Portion 182-A(4) provides that homeowners altering their motor vehicles, like by way of retrofitting motor motor vehicle pieces in an impermissible way faces up to 6 months in jail or with a fine of up to Rs 5,000 per such alteration or with both. Therefore, it is not only the owner of a motor vehicle who faces legal responsibility but even a producer or dealer.
A two-choose bench of the Supreme Court of India dealt with the interpretation of Section 52 of the Act of 1988 and examined the extent of permissible alterations in the case of Regional Transportation Officer v K Jayachandra (2019). The sort of alterations which were becoming examined included alterations to the chassis of the auto, thus basically changing the structure of the motor vehicle.
In its examination of the provisions of the Act, the court docket took take note of the objects and reasons of the modification made to the provision by Parliament in 2000, according to which improvements created ended up required to ensure the protection of highway users by prohibiting alterations of any sort which include adjust of tyres of increased potential.
The crux of the judgment is that whilst the RTO does not have to have to be burdened for just about every small alteration these kinds of as fitting extras, if there is any alter in the framework which will be deemed as altering its “basic structure” and is at variance with the particulars of registration then these alterations are unlawful. The improve in tyre dimensions has sought to be built unlawful in look at of basic safety problems by the legislature and this has been recognised and affirmed by the Supreme Court docket.
Having said that, soon after this judgment, in the similar yr, the Kerala substantial court experienced occasion to offer with an individual who built an software for converting a Power Traveller ambulance into a Hearse Ambulance in Jeffin Abraham v Joint Regional Transport Officer (2019). Although the software was rejected, a number of structural alterations ended up designed to the van came to gentle. Even though dealing with this, the court docket had occasion to interpret Portion 52 of the Motor Automobiles Act. The courtroom also noticed that the Ministry of Highway and Highway’s has issued a clarificatory interaction in watch of the judgment of the Supreme Courtroom.
In essence what the ministry reported is that adjustments are unable to be created to the certificate of registration other than to the extent of the entries created in the exact same as for each the requirements of the company. The most important clarification for our applications is:
“A motor auto, modified by incorporating optional components presented by its producer or if not modified so that it carries on to comply with the manufacturer’s technical specs, could not need further certification. In the mentioned conversation, the Ministry has recommended that the modifications that can be carried out by the vehicle owner and would not entail additional certifications are:
(a) Alternative of pieces or components by equivalent pieces or parts.
(b) Substitution components or factors with components or components with equivalent functional overall performance.
(c) Optional parts or elements as recommended by the vehicle’s company.”
This clarification makes a scenario whereby a client who purchases a car and increases its tyre measurement by obtaining from focused tyre shop will violate the regulation, whereas a consumer who goes to the dealer, who is essentially an extension of the producer may well not. Likewise, a consumer who buys LED tail lights from a 3rd celebration in its place of the supplier will also be liable under the legislation. This distinction which has been established is perverse considering the fact that the item of the 2000 modification was ostensibly a protection worry. Several brands or dealers supply tyre upsizing both as extras or updates. If Area 182-A (1) bars a producer or supplier from creating alterations which violate the Act and its principles and the intendment of the 2000 laws was in opposition to tyre upsizing, then we ought to ask ourselves no matter whether these can in reality be delivered lawfully as accessories or upgrades.
There is also ambiguity as to what “continues to comply with the manufacturer’s specifications” suggests. Lots of shoppers make alterations this sort of as changing the headlights to far better high quality, some up grade the tail lights these are third bash equipment. Even further it can be argued that headlight and tail lights are ‘basic features’ of the cars and trucks even nevertheless there is no structural change in the automobile. Stress horns remaining mounted are reportedly primary to pricey fines becoming issued by the targeted traffic police, but what if the buyer purchases the horn which is a authentic accent provided by the company?
Considering the fact that the enhance in tyre measurement discovered unfavourable point out not only in the objects and good reasons for the 2000 amendment but a judgment of the Supreme Court and Kerala large courtroom, the argument that as very long as a shopper chooses a larger tyre size which is specified by the company, it is permissible would not keep much drinking water. Further more working with the word “may” produces even more confusion as it is not essential that compliance with the circumstances of the communication would call for no registration.
In check out of these judgments, it will be useful to study what kind of modifications are staying now provided by third bash retailers in the industry:
- Clutch overhaul
- Eu/ TCU Tuning
- Brake upgrades.
- Customised exhaust techniques
- Exterior customisation
- Automation and hydraulics.
These are just some of the publicly readily available modifications of which all of which tumble foul of Portion 52 of the Act as they would improve the motor vehicle from what was designed by the maker and specified in the certificate of registration. These modifications arguably change the basic characteristics of the car or truck. Even more, in scenario a buyer wishes to make these modifications he will mandatorily have to notify and seek consent of the jurisdictional RTO.
In look at of the above let us study some illustrative cases which could occur when a client wishes to make some modifications to his vehicle:
1. A customer buys a car and does not like the seat handles. There are no facet and curtain airbags: The change of seat addresses will not outcome in any improve to the construction or primary functions of the car or truck and for that reason is acceptable.
2. A client purchases a reduced variant of a vehicle which arrives with 15-inch tyres. The better variant of the car or truck will come with 17-inch tyres. The buyer can tactic the authorised seller for upsizing the tyres, nevertheless upsizing the tyres outside the house the purview of the maker is a grey region in look at of the judgments of the courts and the clarification of the Ministry. There will be no dilemma in upgrading to a greater manufacturers tyre which are the identical measurement as the tyres the motor vehicle arrived with. This is because the tyre dimension and technical specs has to be provided by the producer when furnishing facts to the registering authority.
3. The consumer goes to a overall performance enhancement firm and boost the horsepower of the motor and improvements the tune of the engine or modifies the brakes or suspension of the automobile. This is illegal and impermissible since it would be at variance with the particulars furnished by the producer when registering the automobile which incorporates the ability output of the engine.
4. A client variations the inventory headlights and tail lights by approaching a 3rd social gathering. He replaces the ones at first presented by the company. For occasion, the consumer installs projector headlights which are not presented by the maker on any variant of the motor vehicle. This is again a gray spot, considering that if there is no improve in wiring and the merchandise is plug and play and only increases the auto and does not violate any provisions of the motor car or truck Act, this must fall within the definition of an accessory and ought to be permissible. Even so, as seen in the case of the Thar proprietor in Jammu and Kashmir, LED tail lights had been not spared.
5. A customer purchases a decreased conclusion variant of a vehicle and later installs a touchscreen system which has wi-fi Apple Carplay and Android Vehicle. This will be an accent and will not call for registration.
6. A customer wants to transform the color of the paint in his car. He will have to look for approval from the RTO for this as it will be at variance with the certificate of registration.
7. A client wants to make alterations to the body of the car or truck by putting in body kits, and changing the visual appearance of the bumpers. This is impermissible and if this sort of alterations are sought to be designed, approval of the RTO should be sought.
The genuine issue is with alterations which make the car unsafe and put some others at hazard this kind of as massive metallic bumper guards which have been built unlawful. There is also a legitimate interest of the maker and seller to ensure good quality manage and the basic safety of its autos as a result, 3rd bash components can complicate issues and modifications or alterations created to the motor vehicle outside the house the dealership ordinarily void the guarantee which comes with the cars. For illustration, altering the wiring in a auto can result in a brief circuit and induce a hearth. Modifications these types of as all those made to let in different ways abled folks for driving have in lots of situations required them to seek out permission for altering their automobile, these are decided on a situation-to-circumstance basis.
The outcome of the clarificatory interaction of the Ministry of Street and Transport is that as lengthy as you match genuine add-ons or fitments provided by the producer, of which an authorised supplier is an extension, there ought to be no dilemma and you may not require to get your alteration registered. This will spot a customer who goes to a third social gathering or unbiased shop for fitments or selected add-ons at a downside considering the fact that regardless of whether or not his fitments and equipment conform to what is prescribed by the company will be up for interpretation of the authorities. Further more after the amendment in 2019 if the Central Government approves specific alterations/ fitments then the same will not void the manufacturers warranty.
It would thus stand to explanation that if the technical specs of the company are not tampered or interfered with, then it should not entail a violation of Section 52 of the Act and accompanying principles. The cumulative outcome is that 3rd bash equipment or fitments are witnessed with a lens of suspicion as opposed to what is available by the producer or its authorised seller which are typically additional high-priced and out of achieve of a lot of customers.
In conclusion, modifications which do not pose safety hazards must be permissible third-bash accessory or fitments ought to not be banned in totality but examined on a case-scenario basis to see whether the alteration produced is a basic safety hazard. The alterations the Supreme Courtroom of India and the Kerala higher courtroom were being anxious with were extra to do with structural modifications. Hence, the word “basic features” has to be read with structural modifications and not independently, and therefore accessories which have been expressly exempted by the law can be modified with out looking for registration. The choice specified to makers and their sellers by, in a sense, exempting their add-ons or modifications from the rigours of the law as opposed to third get together accent stores desires reconsideration and modifications to a auto must not make a difference as prolonged as they do not constitute a protection hazard.
It would be beneficial for buyers if the Union government gives clarity of which add-ons are exempted and permissible by way of a checklist. This would also tell shoppers of which extras will not void the brands guarantee. The endeavour must be to end any ambiguity bordering modifications or alterations in automobiles thinking of it entails time in jail which can lengthen up to 6 months for the proprietor of the car.
Raghav Tankha is a law firm practising in Delhi. Views are own.