Can the authorities impound a driving licence without initiating proceedings against the holder under the Motor Vehicles Act? No, the Madras High Court has said.

The court passed the order on a writ petition by a driver of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) seeking a direction to the transport authorities to return his licence to enable him to rejoin duty.

In his affidavit, N.Ramakrishnan said that on May 25 this year, he was driving a bus on route no.18M/E (Tambaram – Vadapalani). A man aged 60 fell and suffered an injury when he tried to board the bus at at Vadapalani here. A case was registered against the petitioner. Mr.Ramakrishnan said the police seized his licence and handed it over to the RTO, South West, Valasaravakkam.

The petitioner’s counsel R.Y.George Williams said no proceedings were initiated under Section 19 (Power of licensing authority to disqualify from holding a driving licence or revoke such licence) of the MV Act against the driver. Ultimately, some order should be passed revoking the licence or disqualifying the person from holding licence for a specific period. Without following the procedure, the RTO did not have the authority to impound the licence.

In the order, Justice D.Hariparanthaman referred to an earlier judgment and said that in that case, after impounding the licence, a show cause notice was issued; but in the present case, not even a notice was issued. Allowing the petition, the Judge directed the RTO to return the driving licence to the petitioner within a week. However, he made it clear that the RTO was not precluded from initiating any action under Section 19 (1).

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