November 28, 2023

A resident of Jammu and Kashmir reportedly identified himself on the mistaken aspect of the legislation for modifying his Mahindra Thar and was sentenced to six months in jail. The modifications he is said to have produced to his car or truck involve a really hard top rated, even larger wheel and tyres as effectively as a superior automobile siren. It is for that reason important to study to what extent a purchaser can make modifications to his vehicle. This is crucial for the reason that building modifications may perhaps invite authorized proceedings.

Customers are forced to make alterations for the reason that companies spread capabilities throughout distinctive variants which may well be out of their attain whilst in the beginning obtaining the auto. For case in point, a base variant of a car or truck may well have smaller sized tyres than the larger variant or could not have a touchscreen process which has the characteristic of Apple CarPlay and Android Car which are arguably needed in 2022. So, a shopper who cannot pay for the optimum variant may buy the decreased variant and afterwards, as cash gets to be offered goes and adds these options to his automobile. Possibly this is why automakers like BMW have make your mind up to switch to a subscription model which includes them inputting the needed components necessary and building it subscription centered, so you can purchase the automobile but activate other features later.

Accessories not exceeding two per cent of the vehicle’s pounds specified in the certificate of registration are permissible in India. However, alterations which transform the standard framework of the car or truck so as to alter its basic characteristics have been produced illegal in India by virtue of Section 52 of the Motor Automobiles Act of 1988 which was afterwards amended in 2000 and yet again a short while ago in 2019.

This post seeks to study the scope and ambit of Area 52 of the Motor Autos Act and the permissible limits of vehicle alteration in India.

An assessment of the elements of Segment 52 of the Motor Motor vehicles Act, 1988 informs us that:

  • No proprietor of a motor auto can alter the car at variance with the particulars contained in the certificate of registration specified by the company.
  • The motor or any section of it can be modified or modified to make sure that it is run by a different gas or battery or liquified petroleum gasoline or any other resource of electricity by fitting a conversion package. The Central Govt can prescribe technical specs, circumstances, conditions of acceptance, retro fitment and other connected issues for such conversion kits and the modifications must comply with these ailments.
  • The Central Authorities can prescribe requirements, situations for approval, retrofitment and other related issues for the alteration of motor motor vehicles and in such scenario, the guarantee granted by the manufacturer will not be viewed as void for the functions of this sort of alteration or retrofitment.
  • A man or woman can attain subsequent acceptance of the registering authority for alterations and convert his vehicle into an adapted motor vehicle which have to comply with the ailments prescribed by the central government.
  • Alterations manufactured without prior acceptance of the registering authority must be introduced to its discover within fourteen times of earning the alteration. The certificate of registration along with fee has to be supplied.
  • The Central Government can exempt alterations of motor vehicles in a fashion usually than the specified manner for any distinct reason.
  • If an alteration has been manufactured without the need of the prior acceptance of the RTO, then the operator of the car or truck need to report the alteration to the RTO in just 14 days of building the alteration together with the certification of registration and the approved cost.

An alteration is defined in the Portion as which means a change in the composition of the car or truck resulting in a change in its essential feature.

The punishment for alterations is uncovered in Segment 182-A of the Act. According to Area 182-A(1) if a producer, importer or dealer  helps make or provides to alterations which violate chapter VII of the Act or policies and restrictions the punishment will be a greatest of one particular year in jail or with a wonderful of a single lakh rupees for every the vehicle or both of those.

Even more, Part 182-A(4) delivers that owners altering their autos, together with by way of retrofitting motor motor vehicle areas in an impermissible way faces up to 6 months in jail or with a wonderful of up to Rs 5,000 per these types of alteration or  with both of those. Therefore, it is not only the proprietor of a automobile who faces liability but even a manufacturer or seller.

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 scenario of Regional Transportation Officer v K Jayachandra (2019). The type of alterations which ended up becoming examined included changes to the chassis of the vehicle, thereby really modifying the construction of the motor vehicle.

In its examination of the provisions of the Act, the court took be aware of the objects and causes of the modification designed to the provision by Parliament in 2000, according to which alterations produced were being essential to make certain the security of road end users by prohibiting alterations of any type together with improve of tyres of larger ability.

The crux of the judgment is that when the RTO does not want to be burdened for every single insignificant alteration these types of as fitting extras, if there is any adjust in the construction which will be regarded 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 look at of security problems by the legislature and this has been recognised and affirmed by the Supreme Court docket.

On the other hand, after this judgment, in the same 12 months, the Kerala superior court docket experienced situation to offer with an person who manufactured an application for changing a Drive Traveller ambulance into a Hearse Ambulance in Jeffin Abraham v Joint Regional Transportation Officer (2019). Although the application was turned down, quite a few structural alterations have been created to the van came to light-weight. Although working with this, the courtroom experienced event to interpret Area 52 of the Motor Cars Act. The court docket also noticed that the Ministry of Street and Highway’s has issued a clarificatory conversation in perspective of the judgment of the Supreme Courtroom.

In essence what the ministry said is that adjustments cannot be built to the certificate of registration except to the extent of the entries designed in the exact as for each the requirements of the company. The most very important clarification for our purposes is:

“A motor automobile, modified by incorporating optional elements provided by its manufacturer or otherwise modified so that it carries on to comply with the manufacturer’s specifications, might not call for additional certification. In the claimed communication, the Ministry has approved that the modifications that can be carried out by the auto operator and would not entail additional certifications are:

(a) Replacement of components or parts by similar pieces or factors.

(b) Alternative pieces or factors with components or parts with equivalent functional performance.

(c) Optional areas or parts as recommended by the vehicle’s maker.”

This clarification makes a situation whereby a consumer who purchases a vehicle and will increase its tyre measurement by getting from focused tyre store will violate the law, whereas a client who goes to the dealer, who is essentially an extension of the producer might not. Equally, a shopper who buys LED tail lights from a 3rd occasion alternatively of the seller will also be liable beneath the regulation. This difference which has been created is perverse since the item of the 2000 modification was ostensibly a security concern. Several manufacturers or dealers provide tyre upsizing both as components or updates. If Portion 182-A (1) bars a manufacturer or vendor from generating alterations which violate the Act and its guidelines and the intendment of the 2000 legislation was from tyre upsizing, then we will have to ask ourselves no matter whether these can in simple fact be offered lawfully as extras or updates.

There is also ambiguity as to what “continues to comply with the manufacturer’s specifications” means. Numerous people make alterations such as switching the headlights to superior good quality, some update the tail lights these are 3rd occasion extras. Even more it can be argued that headlight and tail lights are ‘basic features’ of the vehicles even although there is no structural modify in the car or truck. Strain horns being set up are reportedly top to costly fines currently being issued by the targeted traffic law enforcement, but what if the buyer buys the horn which is a genuine accent delivered by the maker?

Because the increase in tyre size discovered unfavourable mention not only in the objects and good reasons for the 2000 modification but a judgment of the Supreme Court and Kerala higher courtroom, the argument that as long as a client chooses a larger tyre measurement which is specified by the company, it is permissible would not keep a lot water. Even more using the term “may” creates more confusion as it is not vital that compliance with the ailments of the conversation would have to have no registration.

In perspective of these judgments, it will be practical to look at what type of modifications are currently being at present offered by third get together retailers in the market:

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

These are just some of the publicly offered modifications of which all of which tumble foul of Segment 52 of the Act as they would modify the motor vehicle from what was created by the company and specified in the certification of registration. These modifications arguably change the standard features of the automobile. Further more, in situation a client needs to make these modifications he will mandatorily have to advise and seek consent of the jurisdictional RTO.

In check out of the earlier mentioned let us take a look at some illustrative predicaments which may arise when a customer wishes to make some modifications to his auto:

1. A buyer buys a vehicle and does not like the seat handles. There are no facet and curtain airbags: The transform of seat handles will not final result in any modify to the composition or fundamental attributes of the motor vehicle and hence is appropriate.

2. A customer purchases a decrease variant of a car which comes with 15-inch tyres. The better variant of the automobile comes 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 company is a gray spot in view of the judgments of the courts and the clarification of the Ministry. There will be no dilemma in upgrading to a much better models tyre which are the similar dimension as the tyres the motor vehicle came with. This is for the reason that the tyre sizing and specs has to be delivered by the company when furnishing details to the registering authority.

3. The customer goes to a general performance improvement firm and improve the horsepower of the motor and variations the tune of the engine or modifies the brakes or suspension of the car or truck. This is unlawful and impermissible since it would be at variance with the particulars furnished by the producer even though registering the car which contains the electricity output of the engine.

4. A client modifications the stock headlights and tail lights by approaching a 3rd celebration. He replaces the ones originally furnished by the company. For instance, the client installs projector headlights which are not furnished by the manufacturer on any variant of the vehicle. This is once again a grey space, because if there is no modify in wiring and the product is plug and play and only enhances the motor vehicle and does not violate any provisions of the motor motor vehicle Act, this need to drop inside the definition of an accessory and should be permissible. However, as noticed in the situation of the Thar proprietor in Jammu and Kashmir, LED tail lights were not spared.

5. A customer buys a lower conclude variant of a motor vehicle and later installs a touchscreen method which has wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto. This will be an accent and will not need registration.

6. A shopper desires to modify the colour of the paint in his automobile. 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 client wants to make alterations to the overall body of the motor vehicle by setting up overall body kits, and transforming the look of the bumpers. This is impermissible and if these kinds of alterations are sought to be manufactured, approval of the RTO must be sought.

The real challenge is with alterations which make the car or truck unsafe and put other folks at possibility such as enormous metal bumper guards which have been made unlawful. There is also a legitimate desire of the manufacturer and dealer to be certain high quality management and the safety of its automobiles as a result, third social gathering equipment can complicate matters and modifications or alterations designed to the car or truck exterior the dealership normally void the guarantee which comes with the autos. For illustration, switching the wiring in a car or truck can result in a limited circuit and cause a fire. Modifications this sort of as these manufactured to permit in different ways abled people for driving have in numerous scenarios essential them to seek out authorization for altering their vehicle, these are made the decision on a circumstance-to-case basis.

The result of the clarificatory conversation of the Ministry of Street and Transportation is that as long as you in good shape legitimate accessories or fitments supplied by the producer, of which an authorised dealer is an extension, there really should be no issue and you may well not have to have to get your alteration registered. This will put a consumer who goes to a 3rd get together or impartial store for fitments or certain add-ons at a drawback since regardless of whether or not his fitments and add-ons conform to what is recommended by the maker will be up for interpretation of the authorities. Even further following the amendment in 2019 if the Central Govt approves certain alterations/ fitments then the identical will not void the makers guarantee.

It would for that reason stand to explanation that if the requirements of the producer are not tampered or interfered with, then it need to not entail a violation of Section 52 of the Act and accompanying procedures. The cumulative result is that 3rd occasion accessories or fitments are viewed with a lens of suspicion as opposed to what is made available by the company or its authorised vendor which are typically far more expensive and out of reach of several people.

In conclusion, modifications which do not pose safety dangers should be permissible 3rd-social gathering accessory or fitments should not be banned in totality but examined on a scenario-situation foundation to see irrespective of whether the alteration designed is a security hazard. The alterations the Supreme Courtroom of India and the Kerala significant court have been anxious with were a lot more to do with structural modifications. Consequently, the term “basic features” has to be go through with structural modifications and not independently, and therefore extras which have been expressly exempted by the law can be modified with out looking for registration. The choice supplied to brands and their sellers by, in a perception, exempting their add-ons or modifications from the rigours of the regulation as opposed to third bash accessory retailers demands reconsideration and modifications to a automobile ought to not subject as extended as they do not represent a protection hazard.

It would be helpful for individuals if the Union federal government provides clarity of which equipment are exempted and permissible by way of a list. This would also inform people of which add-ons will not void the makers warranty. The endeavour must be to end any ambiguity bordering modifications or alterations in motor vehicles taking into consideration it involves time in jail which can extend up to 6 months for the operator of the vehicle.

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

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