The Kerala High Court noted on Friday that owners of the cars are also subject to prosecution under Section 113(3) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 if they allowed the vehicle to be driven with an excessive amount of weight.
The court stated that after hearing several petitions contesting the actions taken under Sections 113(3)(b) and 194(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act, the complaints raise specific allegations against the registered owners of the vehicles that they allowed the vehicle to be driven with excess weight.
Justice Ziyad Rahman A.A. noted the "presumption" provided under Section 113(4) that the Court may "presume that the offence was committed with the knowledge of or under the orders of the owner of the motor vehicle or trailer" when the driver or person in charge of the vehicle being driven contrary to the provisions of the provision is not the owner.
Arguments before the court
It had been argued before the court that the presumption is only accessible about the offence under Section 113(3)(a), which deals with the vehicle's unladen weight, and therefore the owner of the aforementioned vehicle cannot be prosecuted in the absence of any presumption.
"It is clear that both actions, causing or permitting the act of operating a vehicle with extra weight (whether burdened or unladen), would constitute offences. These offences are distinct from one another and could be committed by other people. The registered owners in each of these cases are specifically accused of allowing the vehicle to be driven with excess weight, according to the complaints filed in each of these cases. As a result of the provision in Subsection (3), the registered owners are subject to prosecution for the offence under Subsection (3) of Section 113 of the Motor Vehicles Act "The judge looked on.
The court stated that the "presumption" envisioned by Section 113(4) will "not influence the commission of the offence" and that it may be relevant at trial.
"When there is a presumption in favour of the prosecution, it is much harder for them to prove the crime. However, simply because the conditions for attracting the presumption are not present cannot lead to the conclusion that no offence at all is attracted; on the other hand, the absence of the presumption would increase the burden of proof. If the elements listed in subsection (3) of section 114 are proven from the complaint, the offence would be considered to have occurred in this situation.
In this case, regardless of whether presumption, as described in Subsection (4) of Section 113 of the Motor Vehicles Act, is attracted or not, the prosecution may be brought against all those who committed the aforementioned offences. In these conditions, I do not think the aforementioned contentions have any merit.
Contentions of petitioners
The petitioners had contested the prosecution that the Motor Vehicles Inspector had brought against them, saying that they had committed offences that were punishable under Sections 113(3)(b) and 194(1) of the MV Act, 1988. In these cases, it is alleged that the petitioners, who are the drivers and registered owners of the vehicles, committed the offences by overloading their goods carriages.
The petitioners' legal counsel argued that because the offences leveled against them are not cognizable, the Magistrate was unable to consider the Motor Vehicle Inspector's final report, and as a result, the actions brought against them are not legally valid.
But the Court ruled that no allegation made by the Motor Vehicle Inspector was based on a police report as required by Section 173(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, and that's why the prosecution had been started.
The petitioners had also argued that it was incorrect for the complainant to draw such a presumption at the time of filing the complaint because Section 113 (4) envisions a presumption to be drawn by the concerned Court.
The Court stated that the complaint had never been filed based on the assumption entrenched in the rule in any of the situations being challenged.
The complaint can be pursued regardless of the presumption mentioned above, it was noted. "On the other hand...the complaint contains materials for attracting the ingredients contemplated under Subsection (3) of Section 113 of the Act."
The petitioners further stated that the complaint included a prayer for the accused to pay the fine at the rates outlined in a government order and that the complaint also included the amount of the penalty that the accused would be required to pay if found guilty. A claim was made that such a prayer is improper.
Even if the government order was mentioned in some of the complaints, the court ruled that they could not be considered void for this reason.
Nothing would prevent the court from taking cognizance if there are adequate averments in the complaint for prosecuting the accused based on the evidence provided in the record, the court stated.
The petitioner's attorneys then argued that under Section 114 of the M.V. Act, 1988, "the Officer concerned may, by an order, direct the driver to off-load the excess weight at his own risk and not to remove the vehicle or trailer from that place until the laden weight has been reduced or the vehicle or trailer has otherwise been dealt with offload document demonstrating compliance with the requirements were produced in any of the circumstances offenses it was presented.
The court, however, rejected the argument and stated:
"Even if it is considered a violation, in my opinion, it cannot be viewed as something that offense taints the case. The issuance of an order to offload the excess weight is a secondary event that occurs after the offence is discovered. The offence under Subsection (3) of Section 113 would be attracted once the vehicle was disutilized to be carrying excess weight, the proceedings would not be tainted and the offence already committed by the accused persons would not people because the officer in question did not issue an order directing the driver to off-load the excess weight ".
The Court further stated that since the utilizes the word "may," it can only be understood as "an enabling provision" that gives the Officer in question the authority to issue a directive to prevent a recurrence of a breach of Section 113's Subsection (3).
As a result, the petitions were dismissed by the Court.