Non-KA vehicle owners earn reprieve from Karnataka High Court [Read Order]

The Karnataka High Court

A decision by Justice Anand Byrareddy of the Karnataka High Court has come as welcome relief to all those affected by an amendment to the Karnataka Motor Vehicles Act.

As per the impugned amendment, introduced in 2014, anyone driving a non-Karnataka registered vehicle for more than 30 days would have to get the vehicle registered in Karnataka.

In effect, this would require the payment of the state’s lifetime tax. Failure to do so would lead to fines and impounding of the vehicle. Given the sheer number of people who have migrated to Bangalore, and the transitional nature of job locations meant that this clause did generate some discontent.

Eventually, individuals such as Waseem Memon, decided to take the issue to court. Memon, who quit his job to pursue this case full-time. He also started a Facebook page, Drive Without Borders, to mobilise support and generate public opinion.

And yesterday was a good day for Memon, and Drive Without Borders.

Speaking to Bar & Bench, DWB’s Srinivasan Ramasubramanian said that the litigation can actually be traced back to September of 2014 when he and Memon approached the Supreme Court. The two were then asked to go to the Karnataka High Court first.

In January last year, DWB’s Ananthu filed a writ petition in the High Court, which was clubbed together with two other similar petitions.

In the judgment delivered yesterday, the Karnataka High Court set aside the amendment, holding that the amendment went against the provisions of the Central Motor Vehicle Act.

As per this report in the Deccan Herald, the court held that,

“Lifetime tax that is levied at the point of registration of a vehicle as per the KMVT Act cannot be levied on a vehicle that is already registered, merely on a presumption that a vehicle registered outside Karnataka has remained in the State for a period exceeding 30 days.”

The court also held that the Karnataka amendment did not cure the underlying defect referred to in the Mahesh Gandhi judgment of 2005.

In Mahesh Gandhi, the Karnataka High Court had held that,

Therefore, insofar as the registration of motor vehicles is concerned, it is an aspect regulated by the Central Act viz., MV Act, and a vehicle registered in one State, if it has to be compulsorily registered in another State, it should be within the other State for a period exceeding 12 months

…..

I am of the view that under the charging section – Section 3(1) of the Act read with Part A5 of the Schedule – there is no scope for levying of lifetime tax in the State of Karnataka in respect of the vehicles already registered outside this State and paying or having paid tax therein, unless such vehicle is found in the State of Karnataka for a period exceeding 12 months. 

Senior counsel Aditya Sondhi, was one of the lawyers who appeared in the case, briefed by advocate Karan Joseph. For the state, Additional Advocate General AS Ponnanna had appeared in the matter.

DWB’s Srinivasan is expecting the State government to challenge the decision, and perhaps even take it up all the way to the Supreme Court. In fact, he says that the fight is far from over.

“Our movement will only end with one nation one tax.”

Read the entire judgment below.

Jagadev-Biradar-v-Karnataka