The Madras High Court’s suo motu cognisance of the recent Mudichur tragedy where a schoolgirl was killed in a freak road accident has indeed triggered a swift reaction from the government machinery, but, at the same time, vehicles which have hit the road nearly two to three decades ago are still being used for transporting students by educational institutions functioning on the outskirts of Chennai.
Enquiries reveal that the existing format of vehicle registration numbers was introduced after the Union government made suitable amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act and Rules in 1989.
While introducing the new format, the State government earmarked ‘N’ series for State Transport Corporation vehicles and ‘G’ for government vehicles. In the existing format, the first two alphabets indicate the State and the next two numbers pertain to the concerned Regional Transport Office where the registration is made, followed by an alphabetical serial and final four numbers denote the concerned vehicle.
Prior to 1989 also, the State government has earmarked specific registration series such as – ‘TMN’, ‘TML’ and ‘TCB’ for vehicles registered in the name of State Transport Undertakings between 1970 and 1989 and ‘MSN’ for the vehicles registered prior to 1970, say sources.
Interestingly, some vehicles bearing such registration numbers are still seen plying as educational institution vehicles, transporting students on city roads, though these vehicles hit the roads as public transport carriers prior to 1989.
Thus, it becomes apparent that these vehicles are being put to extended and exhaustive use despite the restriction of validity of their registration period of 15 years as mentioned in their registration certificates (RC).
When contacted, sources in the Transport Department said that though the RC validity has been restricted to 15-year period, fitness certificates (FC) would be issued to such vehicles if they fulfil the conditions laid down for the extension of RC period. Generally, FCs would be issued after checking the condition of engines brakes and floor and seats besides interior and exterior of the vehicle.
Stating that an application for FC for old vehicles cannot be rejected for the simple reason that the vehicle has been used for more than 15 years, the sources say that FC of an old vehicle could be extended as long as the engine condition and other criteria were satisfactory.
Further, there was no clause in the MV Act or Rules that specify the exact life of a vehicle.
It has been mentioned in the Act that registration of a vehicle could be cancelled if it was found incapable of being used or its use in a public place would cause danger to public, they add.