The Madras High Court has upheld a Transport Commissioner's circular directing the licensing authorities to take into account certain regulations while granting licences for establishing driving schools in the State.

Dismissing appeals filed by the South India Driving Schools Owners Federation, Nanganallur, and others challenging a single Judge's order, a Division Bench consisting of Justices R. Banumathi and B.Rajendran in its common judgment, said it was of the view that the 2007 circular was issued as a regulation intended to benefit the public. “When public interest is predominant, individual interest could not overweigh the advantages or disadvantages to be caused to the individuals.”

Earlier, the various associations had filed writ petitions aggrieved by the circular which contained clauses relating to infrastructural amenities to be provided whereby it was directed that driving schools should have fire-proof pucca building for at least five years with a minimum space of 1000 sq.ft and adequate parking area on the school premises to accommodate the vehicles. All basic amenities such as drinking water, toilet facilities, rest room etc, should be provided in driving schools. Other conditions were also imposed. A single Judge dismissed the writ petitions on October 28 last year. Hence, the writ appeals.

The associations said if the circular were to be implemented, almost all the driving schools in the State would have to be closed down as the conditions stipulated were onerous. Further, the Transport Commissioner had no authority to issue such a circular.

Only the Centre was entitled and empowered to impose any condition or make any rule or issue direction.

Advocate-General P.S.Raman pointed out that under the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, the licensing authority, while considering an application seeking renewal of licence had to consider the various specifications given by the Centre.

In doing so, to have a uniform procedure in the State, the government issued the circular.

Conjoint reading

The Bench said a conjoint reading of the Motor Vehicles Act with the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Rules would make it clear that the Transport Commissioner was empowered to issue necessary instructions to his subordinates.

Only to avoid arbitrary exercise of power by the licensing authority and to ensure uniformity in the procedures throughout the State, did the Transport Commissioner, as head of the department, issue the circular.

The communication was intended to have an effective control over the driving schools, to produce quality and skilful drivers considering the enormous amount of traffic.

It had also been issued by considering the rights of road users and road safety.

The Bench took judicial notice that when the quality of drivers was sought to be enhanced by a proper education and methodology through driving schools, it could not find fault with such regulation.

Following a request, the Bench granted time till December 31, 2010 for implementing all the regulations by the driving schools.

The court said this would not apply to new driving schools.