A resident of Jammu and Kashmir reportedly located himself on the improper aspect of the law for modifying his Mahindra Thar and was sentenced to 6 months in jail. The modifications he is stated to have made to his motor vehicle consist of a tricky top rated, bigger wheel and tyres as perfectly as a high vehicle siren. It is as a result important to examine to what extent a shopper can make modifications to his automobile. This is vital because making modifications may possibly invite lawful proceedings.

Individuals are compelled to make alterations simply because suppliers spread attributes throughout unique variants which may be out of their reach while to begin with acquiring the car or truck. For illustration, a foundation variant of a auto may well have lesser tyres than the increased variant or could not have a touchscreen process which has the feature of Apple CarPlay and Android Automobile which are arguably necessary in 2022. Consequently, a customer who cannot afford the highest variant might purchase the decrease variant and afterwards, as cash gets to be offered goes and provides these capabilities to his vehicle. Perhaps this is why automakers like BMW have make a decision to switch to a membership product which entails them inputting the required hardware demanded and creating it membership based, so you can obtain the automobile but activate other functions later on.

Accessories not exceeding two % of the vehicle’s body weight specified in the certification of registration are permissible in India. Nevertheless, alterations which transform the standard construction of the automobile so as to change its primary characteristics have been designed unlawful in India by advantage of Portion 52 of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 which was afterwards amended in 2000 and once more not too long ago in 2019.

This short article seeks to examine the scope and ambit of Area 52 of the Motor Cars Act and the permissible restrictions of vehicle alteration in India.

An assessment of the components of Section 52 of the Motor Cars Act, 1988 informs us that:

  • No owner of a motor automobile can alter the vehicle at variance with the particulars contained in the certification of registration specified by the maker.
  • The engine or any element of it can be modified or improved to make certain that it is operate by a different fuel or battery or liquified petroleum fuel or any other resource of power by fitting a conversion package. The Central Federal government can prescribe technical specs, situations, conditions of approval, retro fitment and other related issues for these kinds of conversion kits and the modifications should comply with these disorders.
  • The Central Govt can prescribe specs, circumstances for approval, retrofitment and other related issues for the alteration of motor motor vehicles and in these types of situation, the guarantee granted by the maker will not be viewed as void for the functions of this kind of alteration or retrofitment.
  • A person can attain subsequent approval of the registering authority for alterations and convert his automobile into an tailored car or truck which ought to comply with the conditions prescribed by the central government.
  • Alterations manufactured without the need of prior approval of the registering authority should be brought to its notice in just fourteen days of earning the alteration. The certification of registration alongside with payment has to be delivered.
  • The Central Governing administration can exempt alterations of automobiles in a way otherwise than the specified manner for any certain purpose.
  • If an alteration has been created with out the prior acceptance of the RTO, then the proprietor of the car or truck will have to report the alteration to the RTO in 14 times of generating the alteration alongside with the certificate of registration and the prescribed payment.

An alteration is explained in the Part as which means a modify in the framework of the motor vehicle resulting in a change in its standard characteristic.

The punishment for alterations is identified in Section 182-A of the Act. In accordance to Segment 182-A(1) if a producer, importer or dealer  will make or offers to alterations which violate chapter VII of the Act or principles and regulations the punishment will be a optimum of one 12 months in jail or with a high-quality of 1 lakh rupees per the automobile or both.

Further, Portion 182-A(4) delivers that proprietors altering their automobiles, like by way of retrofitting motor auto sections in an impermissible way faces up to six months in jail or with a high-quality of up to Rs 5,000 for every these types of alteration or  with both of those. As a result, it is not only the proprietor of a automobile who faces liability but even a company or dealer.

A two-choose bench of the Supreme Court of India dealt with the interpretation of Area 52 of the Act of 1988 and examined the extent of permissible alterations in the case of Regional Transport Officer v K Jayachandra (2019). The kind of alterations which have been getting examined concerned improvements to the chassis of the auto, thus actually modifying the construction of the car.

In its examination of the provisions of the Act, the court took observe of the objects and explanations of the modification produced to the provision by Parliament in 2000, in accordance to which improvements built ended up necessary to be certain the basic safety of street consumers by prohibiting alterations of any variety such as transform of tyres of increased potential.

The crux of the judgment is that while the RTO does not require to be burdened for each individual insignificant alteration these kinds of as fitting accessories, if there is any alter in the composition which will be deemed as altering its “basic structure” and is at variance with the particulars of registration then these alterations are unlawful.  The increase in tyre sizing has sought to be produced illegal in watch of security worries by the legislature and this has been recognised and affirmed by the Supreme Courtroom.

Having said that, after this judgment, in the exact same yr, the Kerala high courtroom had event to deal with an unique who manufactured an software for changing a Drive Traveller ambulance into a Hearse Ambulance in Jeffin Abraham v Joint Regional Transportation Officer (2019). Though the application was rejected, many structural alterations ended up created to the van arrived to light. While working with this, the court experienced occasion to interpret Section 52 of the Motor Autos Act. The court also observed that the Ministry of Street and Highway’s has issued a clarificatory communication in view of the judgment of the Supreme Court.

In essence what the ministry stated is that alterations are not able to be manufactured to the certificate of registration other than to the extent of the entries created in the same as per the technical specs of the maker. The most critical clarification for our reasons is:

“A motor automobile, modified by incorporating optional factors available by its company or usually modified so that it proceeds to comply with the manufacturer’s specs, may perhaps not call for further more certification. In the claimed interaction, the Ministry has recommended that the modifications that can be carried out by the motor vehicle proprietor and would not entail even more certifications are:

(a) Substitute of areas or components by similar sections or factors.

(b) Replacement elements or components with parts or parts with equal useful general performance.

(c) Optional parts or parts as prescribed by the vehicle’s manufacturer.”

This clarification produces a circumstance wherein a purchaser who buys a vehicle and improves its tyre dimension by acquiring from focused tyre store will violate the law, whereas a client who goes to the vendor, who is fundamentally an extension of the company may not. Likewise, a consumer who purchases LED tail lights from a 3rd celebration rather of the dealer will also be liable below the legislation. This difference which has been developed is perverse considering that the item of the 2000 modification was ostensibly a basic safety worry. Lots of brands or dealers present tyre upsizing possibly as accessories or updates. If Portion 182-A (1) bars a company or vendor from earning alterations which violate the Act and its regulations and the intendment of the 2000 laws was from tyre upsizing, then we need to inquire ourselves no matter if these can in fact be presented lawfully as components or updates.

There is also ambiguity as to what “continues to comply with the manufacturer’s specifications” signifies. A lot of buyers make alterations these kinds of as changing the headlights to improved top quality, some enhance the tail lights these are 3rd get together equipment. Further more it can be argued that headlight and tail lights are ‘basic features’ of the vehicles even nevertheless there is no structural change in the vehicle. Pressure horns getting set up are reportedly major to expensive fines getting issued by the targeted traffic police, but what if the purchaser buys the horn which is a genuine accent presented by the company?

Due to the fact the maximize in tyre size observed unfavourable mention not only in the objects and motives for the 2000 modification but a judgment of the Supreme Court and Kerala significant courtroom, the argument that as long as a client chooses a increased tyre dimension which is specified by the producer, it is permissible would not hold much drinking water. Even further using the term “may” generates even further confusion as it is not essential that compliance with the problems of the interaction would involve no registration.

In perspective of these judgments, it will be practical to analyze what kind of modifications are getting at this time provided by third bash shops in the sector:

  • Tyres
  • Clutch overhaul
  • European/ TCU Tuning
  • Suspension
  • Brake updates.
  • Customised exhaust devices
  • Exterior customisation
  • Automation and hydraulics.

These are just some of the publicly obtainable modifications of which all of which tumble foul of Part 52 of the Act as they would improve the auto from what was made by the manufacturer and specified in the certification of registration. These modifications arguably change the standard features of the vehicle. Even further, in circumstance a client desires to make these modifications he will mandatorily have to inform and request consent of the jurisdictional RTO.

In look at of the over let us analyze some illustrative cases which might crop up when a client wishes to make some modifications to his car:

1. A buyer buys a motor vehicle and does not like the seat addresses. There are no aspect and curtain airbags: The improve of seat addresses will not consequence in any modify to the construction or simple attributes of the car or truck and as a result is acceptable.

2. A shopper purchases a lessen variant of a car or truck which comes with 15-inch tyres. The bigger variant of the car arrives with 17-inch tyres. The customer can solution the authorised supplier for upsizing the tyres, nonetheless upsizing the tyres outside the purview of the company is a grey spot in look at of the judgments of the courts and the clarification of the Ministry. There will be no issue in upgrading to a improved brands tyre which are the exact same dimensions as the tyres the automobile came with. This is since the tyre sizing and requirements has to be furnished by the manufacturer when furnishing details to the registering authority.

3. The purchaser goes to a overall performance enhancement business and maximize the horsepower of the motor and variations the tune of the motor or modifies the brakes or suspension of the vehicle. This is illegal and impermissible since it would be at variance with the particulars furnished by the producer when registering the car or truck which consists of the power output of the motor.

4. A purchaser modifications the stock headlights and tail lights by approaching a 3rd occasion. He replaces the types at first supplied by the maker. For instance, the shopper installs projector headlights which are not offered by the producer on any variant of the car. This is all over again a gray area, since if there is no improve in wiring and the item is plug and enjoy and only improves the vehicle and does not violate any provisions of the motor vehicle Act, this should really drop within just the definition of an accent and should really be permissible. However, as found in the case of the Thar proprietor in Jammu and Kashmir, LED tail lights ended up not spared.

5. A client buys a decreased conclude variant of a auto and afterwards installs a touchscreen method which has wi-fi Apple Carplay and Android Automobile. This will be an accent and will not need registration.

6. A consumer wishes to change the colour of the paint in his auto. He will have to look for acceptance from the RTO for this as it will be at variance with the certificate of registration.

7. A purchaser wishes to make alterations to the system of the auto by putting in physique kits, and switching the appearance of the bumpers. This is impermissible and if this sort of alterations are sought to be made, approval of the RTO have to be sought.

The authentic problem is with alterations which make the motor vehicle unsafe and place some others at risk these types of as enormous metal bumper guards which have been created unlawful. There is also a authentic interest of the manufacturer and vendor to guarantee good quality command and the security of its cars and trucks as a result, third occasion accessories can complicate matters and modifications or alterations designed to the vehicle exterior the dealership ordinarily void the warranty which comes with the automobiles. For illustration, shifting the wiring in a car or truck can cause a small circuit and lead to a fireplace. Modifications this sort of as people designed to make it possible for in another way abled people for driving have in a lot of situations expected them to search for permission for altering their car or truck, these are decided on a scenario-to-circumstance basis.

The outcome of the clarificatory conversation of the Ministry of Street and Transport is that as long as you suit real extras or fitments offered by the maker, of which an authorised vendor is an extension, there must be no problem and you may possibly not need to get your alteration registered. This will spot a consumer who goes to a third bash or impartial store for fitments or selected accessories at a drawback considering that irrespective of whether or not his fitments and components conform to what is approved by the company will be up for interpretation of the authorities. Even more after the modification in 2019 if the Central Governing administration approves sure alterations/ fitments then the exact same will not void the makers warranty.

It would thus stand to rationale that if the specs of the manufacturer are not tampered or interfered with, then it should not entail a violation of Portion 52 of the Act and accompanying principles. The cumulative impact is that 3rd get together add-ons or fitments are found with a lens of suspicion as opposed to what is made available by the maker or its authorised seller which are typically a lot more expensive and out of get to of lots of shoppers.

In summary, modifications which do not pose basic safety dangers need to be permissible 3rd-celebration accessory or fitments should really not be banned in totality but examined on a circumstance-situation foundation to see whether the alteration produced is a safety hazard. The alterations the Supreme Court docket of India and the Kerala large court docket were anxious with were being far more to do with structural modifications. For that reason, the term “basic features” has to be read through with structural modifications and not independently, and for that reason components which have been expressly exempted by the legislation can be modified without the need of seeking registration. The choice supplied to manufacturers and their sellers by, in a perception, exempting their extras or modifications from the rigours of the legislation as opposed to 3rd social gathering accessory shops requires reconsideration and modifications to a car need to not make any difference as prolonged as they do not constitute a basic safety hazard.

It would be advantageous for individuals if the Union federal government provides clarity of which extras are exempted and permissible by way of a record. This would also inform consumers of which add-ons will not void the brands warranty. The endeavour have to be to conclude any ambiguity encompassing modifications or alterations in cars considering it entails time in jail which can prolong up to 6 months for the operator of the car or truck.

Raghav Tankha is a lawyer practising in Delhi. Sights are own.


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