The Punjab and Haryana High Court Tuesday ruled that authorities could not decline to register a vehicle merely for the reason that there was art work on its body, and directed the Chandigarh Administration to register a multicolour Ambassador Grand Harit-C-1800 within a period of two weeks.
“The reason for denying registration merely on the ground that there is art work done on the body of the vehicle, where the base remains white, defies logic. Any reasonable person can easily make out that a white car had some art work done upon it. Like a canvas with a spray of flowers. The base colour of the canvas would remain as it is. The inspector has acted in an arbitrary and wholly whimsical manner, causing undue harassment to the petitioner,” Justice Jaishree Thakur said.
Advocate Ranjit Malhotra had approached the court in 2019 seeking directions that his 2009-model car be given a registration number. He had purchased the vehicle in July 2019 from a counselor of the European Union posted in New Delhi. The vehicle was delivered to him in Chandigarh in August 2019. While he had obtained the ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the registering authorities in New Delhi and also completed all other formalities, authorities refused to issue him a registration number despite multiple representations.
The artwork on the vehicle was done by a renowned Mexican artist Senkoe, as per the petition he filed.
The registration was declined by authorities in Chandigarh on the ground that the colour of the vehicle had been changed from white to “multicolour”. In court, the administration argued that no vehicle could be altered so as to change the original specification made by the manufacturer, while referring to the colour of the vehicle.
Senior Advocate Puneet Bali, who represented Malhotra, argued that the vehicle could not be insured or driven on the road without the registration and would lose its utility. Bali also produced before court photographs of the vehicles being used by the JW Marriot Hotel Delhi – which “reflect the face of the famous painter Salvador Dali spray painted on it” – and submitted that the cars are plying in Delhi without hindrance.
Justice Thakur in the ruling said the vehicle in question had not been subjected to any such alteration which would change its basic structure, nor had there been any change in any of its basic features.
“The only reason assigned for declining to register, is change in colour of vehicle as per original registration from ‘White’ to ‘Multicolour’, while also submitting that the petitioner had filled in a wrong detail while mentioning the colour of the car as white,” reads the judgment.
“No doubt the art work done upon it is colourful, but has it changed the basic structure of the car or has the vehicle been altered in any manner which is not permitted by virtue of Section 52 of the Act? The answer is in the negative,” the court added.
In the final order, the court also noted that any person who drives upon the GT Road will see slogans, quotations and colourful paint job done on the back and front of trucks that ply on the road from Jammu & Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
“Some of the standard one’s are ‘OK TATA’, ‘Horn Please’, ‘Hum Do Hamare Do’, ‘Mera Bharat Mahaan’, ‘Use Dipper at Night’ etc. The trucks are beautifully decorated with artwork done on some panel or the other. Apart from that, cars too are plying with stickers plastered all over them of various countries that the owners have travelled to, the most common one being ‘I LOVE NEW YORK’. Bumper Stickers are put on cars, stickers which show a picture of a baby in the car, which reads as ‘Baby on Board’ can regularly be seen,” Justice Thakur wrote in the verdict, adding such paint job would not imply that the basic colour of the vehcile has been changed.
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