• Ms. Samyuktha Anand

Overviewing the 'Motor Vehicles Act, 1988'

Updated: Sep 6, 2021


The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 came into force from July 1989. It replaced the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939. The act in detail provides for licensing of drivers/conductors, the responsibility of drivers, registration of motor vehicles, control of motor vehicles through permits, special provisions relating to state transport undertakings, traffic regulation, insurance, liability, offences, punishments and penalties etc. through fourteen elaborate chapters comprising of 217 sections in total.


Chapter 2 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 consisting of 25 sections, deals with licensing of drivers of motor vehicles. Any person is not entitled to drive a motor vehicle in a public place unless he holds an effective driving license. She/he must have completed the age of 18 years in order to be eligible for a motor vehicle license and no person below the age of 20 years is eligible to drive a transport vehicle. There also exist sub-clauses differentiating the eligibility of licensing to these two types of vehicles. There are seven classes of vehicles as such namely, Motorcycle without gear, Motorcycle with gear, Invalid carriage, Light motor vehicle, Transport vehicle, Road-roller, Motor vehicle of a specified description. Those learning to drive shall hold a learner’s license until they are fully equipped. Schools which impart instructions for driving must also hold a license for such purposes.

A license issued under this act is effective throughout India. A licensing authority also has the power to revoke or disqualify the license for various reasons such as Habitual offender/criminal, habitual addict to narcotic drugs and various other reasons as listed under Sec.19. The court has also got this power. The effect of such disqualifications is also stated (Sec.23).


Chapter 3 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 consisting of 10 sections deals with licensing of conductors of stage carriers. Stage carriers are also known as conductors need a license as well. No person can act as a stage carrier or appoint someone as stage carriage until he/she is licensed by competent authorities. To apply for the license of a stage carrier one must have minimum educational qualification as prescribed by the government and he/she must not be disqualified for the time being. It shall also be accompanied by a medical certificate signed by a registered medical practitioner.

The authority may also refuse the conductor’s license if the person does not have a minimum educational qualification or is physically unfit to act as a conductor or if any previously held license was revoked. It may also be revoked later due to any disease or disability which is to likely render him permanently unfit to hold such a license. Licensing authorities, Courts have the power to disqualify with appropriate reasons as described under Sec.34 & Sec.35 of this Act, respectively.


Chapter 4 deals with the registration of motor vehicles starting from Section 39. Unless and until a vehicle has been registered no one can drive or the owner cannot permit anyone to drive the vehicle in a public place. Registration of a vehicle is done by the Regional Transport Office (RTO). It can be done with the authority in the jurisdiction of the owner’s residence or place of business. Section 41 deals with the procedure to get a vehicle registered in greater detail. The certificate of registration is valid for a period of 15 years and is renewable for a period of 5 years.

If the registering authority has a reason to believe that the vehicle is a stolen vehicle or the vehicle is mechanically defective or fails to comply with the requirements of the act or of the rules made in the act, or if the applicant fails to furnish particulars of any previous registration of the vehicle or furnishes inaccurate particulars in the application for registration or for renewal, the authorities may refuse to register or renew the vehicle. A registration made in any state is effective throughout India.


Chapter 5 deals with the control of transport vehicles. A permit is very essential No owner shall use or permit to use a vehicle unless and it has the permit to do so. This chapter as the name says deals with the control of transport vehicles and hence, has various detailed legislations concerned about the permits and their application, validity, cancellation, suspension and other general conditions attached to permit etc. Section 91 of this chapter, also mentions the restriction of work hours of drivers. Further sections deal with the jurisdiction and power of other courts.


Chapter 6 of this act deals with the special provisions relating to state transport undertakings. It consists of twelve sections which mainly deal with the preparation and publication of a proposal regarding the road transport service of a state transport undertaking, its objections and the operation of certain additional services by a state transport undertaking. Permits have been dealt with in a detailed manner in the previous segments. However, S.103 deals with the issue of permits to state transport undertakings and subsequent sections on restriction on the grant of permit for a specific route, payment determining method and disposal of an article found in vehicles.


Chapter 7 is titled as Construction, equipment and maintenance of motor vehicles. It contains only 3 sections which mainly deals with the power of the central government to make rules regarding the maintenance of motor vehicles. These are dealt with under various heads such as reduction of noise, emission of smoke, visible vapour, sparks, size, nature, load-carrying capacity, standards of components used, warranty of vehicles after sales, and safety belts, handlebars etc. Hence, it is required to comply with such specifications in order to legally use transport. Not only does the license and other conditions of the driver alone matter, but the conditions of the vehicle should also be taken note of.


Chapter 8 deals with the control of traffic and is dealt with in a detailed manner from Section 122 to Section138. These rules are of high importance since they are being violated in our own day-to-day life with or without deliberation. This majorly deals with limits of speed, limits of weight, erecting and obeying traffic signs, parking places, signals and signalling devices, vehicles with left-hand control, stationary vehicles, safety measures for drivers and pillion riders, and various duties of drivers and owners of the vehicles. Road traffic has always been a matter of huge concern that has not been given the necessary attention. A lot of accidents has been caused due to sheer negligence on the part of drivers and owners of vehicles who have failed to neither take due care nor have paid any heed to obey the traffic rules imposed. These can be easily reduced to a great extent with efficient cooperation from society.


Chapter 9 contains only one section. This, Section 139 deals with the power of the central government with respect to making rules on motor vehicles temporarily leaving or visiting India. It covers various subheads such as grant and authentication of travelling passes, particulars necessary to be exhibited, use of trailers with such motor vehicles, and conditions subject to which persons employed as drivers and conductors of such motor vehicles may enter or leave India.


Chapter 10 which is liability without fault in certain cases consists of four sections. These sections deal with to what extent the principle is liable even without fault in certain cases of accidents. The amount of compensation to be paid, liability to pay in case of accidents that have caused permanent disablement and cases of compensation or claim for death are a few of the topics dealt with in this arena. It is very important to note that these have an overriding effect on other act or law time being in force.

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