The Madras High Court Bench here has asked the government to amend the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, and specify a time limit for the return of the vehicles seized by the transport authorities for violating permits.

Justice S. Nagamuthu passed the order on petitions filed by five persons from Kanyakumari district, seeking return of their vehicles seized by the inspector of police (traffic) on charges of minor permit violations last month.

The petitioners contended that the detention of their vehicles for an indefinite period was in violation of the Article 14 of the Constitution.

The petitioners claimed that the transport authorities had handed their vehicles to the police. The additional government pleader contended that as per the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Rules, an order from the Regional Transport Officer was mandatory for the police to return the seized vehicles to its owners.

Mr. Justice Nagamuthu observed that, “It is not explained as to why the transport authorities in Kanyakumari district have not passed any order on the requests of the petitioners for release of their vehicles. It is probably because no time limit has been prescribed in the law.”

Flaying the officials for their lethargic attitude, the judge said, “The authorities have been under the impression that they can pass orders at their own whims and fancies and take any number of months.”

The judge directed the transport authorities to return the vehicles of the petitioners immediately if they satisfied all the legal requirements.

The judge also noted that the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Rules defined detaining a vehicle that violated permit, but did not delve into several other key aspects.

“It is suggested to the government to look into the anomaly and make suitable amendments to the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, prescribing a time limit to return the seized vehicles and the manner of disposal of vehicles that are not claimed by the owners,” the Justice Nagamuthu ruled in his order.