The State of Uttar Pradesh Vs. Bansraj
 INSC 97 (9 October 1958)
IMAM, SYED JAFFER
CITATION: 1959 AIR 79 1959 SCR Supl. (1) 153
Motor Vehicle-Driving in contravention of
terms of Permit- Driver, if liable--Motor Vehicles Act (IV Of 1939), ss. 42(1)
The respondents who were drivers, not being
owners, were found driving motor vehicles in contravention of the terms of the
'permits granted under S. 42(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act. They were prosecuted
and were convicted under s. 123 Of the Act and sentenced to pay fine. The High
Court held that under S. 42(1) it was the owner alone who was interdicted from
using or permitting the use of the vehicle save in accordance with the
conditions of the permit and that, accordingly, if the vehicle was used against
the conditions of the permit only the owner, and no one else, including the
driver, could be guilty of the contravention under s. 123.
Held, that drivers of the motor vehicles were
also liable under s. 123 of the Act for driving in contravention of the terms
of the permits. Section 42(1) contemplates not only prohibition against the
user by the owner of the vehicle or his permitting its user contrary to the
conditions of the permit but it also contemplates that the vehicle itself shall
be used only in the manner authorised by the permit.
Section 123 penalises all 20 154 persons who
drive a motor vehicle or cause or allow a motor vehicle to be used or let out a
motor vehicle to be used in contravention of the provisions of s. 42(1).
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION Criminal
Appeals Nos. 115/56 & 83/57.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated September 13, 1955, of the Allahabad High in Criminal Reference No.
359 of 1952, arising out of the Reference dated August 4, 1952, by the Sessions
Judge, Gorakpur, under section 438 of Criminal Procedure Code.
G. C. Mathur and C. P. Lal for the appellant
(In both the appeals).
The respondent did not appear.
1958. October 9. The Judgment of the Court
was delivered by KAPUR, J.-These two appeals involve a common question of law
and may be disposed of by one judgment.
In Criminal Appeal No. 115/56 the respondent
Bansraj, driver of a public carrier, of which he was not an owner, was found
carrying 23 passengers instead of 6 allowed under the conditions of permit No.
42-926/123 granted to the owner.
The vehicle was checked by a Head Constable
who on counting the number of passengers found them to be 23. Bansraj
respondent was prosecuted under s. 42 read with s. 123 of the Motor Vehicles
Act, (IV of 1939), as it existed at the date of the offence; (to be called the
Act in this judgment). Bansraj respondent pleaded not guilty and stated that
only six passengers were being carried. He was tried summarily by a First Class
Magistrate at Gorakhpur and found guilty under s. 123 of the Act and sentenced
to pay a fine of Rs. 200 and in default three months' rigorous imprisonment. He
went in revision to the Sessions Judge, Gorakhpur, and there it was contended
that he was only a driver and therefore could not be convicted under s. 123 of
the Act. The learned Judge accepted that contention and being of the opinion
that a mere driver could not be so con- victed, he recommended the case to the
High Court 155 under s. 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The matter came up
as Criminal Reference No. 359/52 before Mukherji J., who referred it to a
Division Bench and was heard by Desai and Upadhya JJ. The interpretation which
the High Court put on s. 42(1) was that under the section it was the owner
alone who was interdicted from Using or permitting the use of the vehicle save
in accordance with the conditions of a permit and therefore if the vehicle was
used against the conditions of the permit, no one else, including the driver,
could be guilty under s. 123 of contravention of the terms of the permit.
The reference was therefore accepted and the
conviction and sentence of the respondent was set aside. The State has come up
in appeal pursuant to special leave against the judgment and order of the High
Court of Allahabad.
In Criminal Appeal No. 83/57 respondent
Vishwanath the driver of a private station wagon W.B.C. 8744 and this owner
Sunder Singh were both prosecuted for carrying 13 passengers from Moghulsarai
to Banaras in the station wagon which had no permit for carrying passengers on
hire. Out of these 8 persons were travelling as passengers who had been charged
fares. The Magistrate acquitted Sundar Singh giving him the benefit of doubt
and sentenced the driver to a fine of Rs. 500 under s. 123 of the Act and in
default to simple imprisonment for six months. This enhanced sentence was given
because he had four previous convictions under the Act. The respondent
Vishwanath took an appeal to the Sessions Judge, Banaras, who set aside the
conviction holding that the driver of a vehicle could not be convicted under s.
123 for contravention of the conditions of the permit. The State took an appeal
to the High Court and this appeal also was heard by Desai and Upadhya JJ. who
dismissed the State's appeal and the State has come to this Court pursuant to
The question for decision in both these
appeals is the same i.e. the liability of the driver of a motor vehicle used in
contravention of the terms of the permit under s. 42(1) of the Act and this
will depend 156 upon the construction to be put on ss. 42 and 123 of the Act.
At the time when the Respondents in the two appeals are alleged to have
committed the offence s. 42(1) provided:- " No owner of a transport
vehicle shall use or permit the use of the vehicle in any public place, save in
accordance with the conditions of a permit granted or countersigned by a
Regional or Provincial Transport Authority authorising the use of the vehicle
in that place in the manner in which the vehicle is being used...............
" And s. 123 of the Act provided " Whoever drives a motor -vehicle or
causes or allows a motor vehicle to be used or lets out a motor vehicle for use
in contravention of 'the provisions of sub-section (1) of section 42 shall be
punishable for a first offence with fine which may extend to five hundred
rupees and for a subsequent offence if committed within three years of the
commission of a previous similar offence with a fine which shall not be less
than one hundred rupees and may extend to one thousand rupees The Act regulates
the use of motor vehicles and for that purpose its various provisions provide
for control on motor vehicles and on those who own them and those who drive
Chapter II provides for licensing of motor
vehicles, Chapter II-A for licensing of conductors, Chapter III for
registration of motor vehicles and Chapter IV for control of transport
vehicles. Chapter IX deals with offences, penalties and procedure. Section 3 in
Chapter II is headed necessity for driving licences. Section 22 in Chapter III
is headed necessity for registration. The marginal note of section 42 in
Chapter IV is necessity for permits. There are several provisions in the Act
contained in Chapter VI which provide for control of traffic, requiring the
drivers of motor vehicles to observe speed limits, to obey duty signals and
there are other provisions for subserving safety in regard to driving of motor
vehicles. The provisions of Chapter IX show how particular the legislature is
in regard to the road safety. With that object in view the Act makes provision
for 157 a complete control over the owners of motor vehicles and over the
drivers of such vehicles and makes elaborate provisions in regard to every
aspect of motor traffic and penalises every one who contravenes the provisions
of the Act including the seller of a defective motor vehicle.
Section 42 is headed " necessity for
permits ". The language of the section employs prohibitive or negative
words and therefore its legislative intent is that the statute is mandatory.
The negative words convey a forbidding of the doing of the act prohibited and
from the use by the legislature of the words " no owner of a transport
vehicle shall use or permit the use " in s. 42(1) a total prohibition
against user of the vehicle except in accordance with the conditions of the
permit is indicated. Further the words " authorizing the use of the
vehicle in that place in the manner in which the vehicle is being used " have
reference to the transport vehicle itself and not to the owner that is to say
s. 42(1) does not only prohibit the owner from using the transport vehicle
contrary to the conditions of the permit but there is an express provision in
the section that the permit authorises the use of the vehicle in the place and
in the manner it is being used, and that it is to be used in accordance with
the conditions of the permit. Thus construed s. 42(1) contemplates not only
prohibition against the user by the owner of the vehicle or his permitting its
user in a manner contrary to the condi- tions of the permit but it also
contemplates that the vehicle itself shall be used in the manner authorised by
the permit. The prohibition therefore is not merely against the use by the
owner but against the use contrary to the conditions of the permit of the
Section 123 is in the chapter dealing with
offences and penalties. The marginal note shows what the section intends to
punish, and that the intention was to provide for punishment of every person
who drives a motor vehicle in contravention of the provisions Of sub-s. (1) of
s. 42. We have said above that s. 42(1) ,requires the use of a transport
vehicle in accordance 158 with the conditions of the permit and that it does not
merely prohibit its user by the owner contrary to the conditions of the permit.
Therefore when a transport vehicle is driven by any one in contravention of the
terms of the permit, it is in contravention of the provisions of s. 42(1).
Section 42(1) is not a penslising section. For its breach s. 123 provides the
penalties. The legislature advisedly did not use the word I owner' in s. 123 of
the Act. Having by s. 42(1) prohibited an owner from using or permitting the
use of a transport vehicle contrary to the conditions of the permit and having
clearly stated therein that the permit granted by the Regional or the
Provincial Transport Authority authorised the use of the vehicle in the manner
in which the vehicle was to be used, the legislature provided punishment for
anyone who drove a motor vehicle or caused or-allowed a motor vehicle to be
used or lets out a motor vehicle to be used in contravention of the provisions
of sub-s. (1) of s. 42. It is for this reason that the Legislature used the
word 'whoever' and did not limit the punishment set out in s. 123 to the owner
himself. The Legislature intended that no motor vehicle should be driven by
anyone contrary to the provisions of s. 42(1) and that if it was driven in
contravention of those provisions he was liable to punishment. The two sections
read together do not lead to the conclusion that s. 123 only makes the owner
liable to punishment. The words " or causes or allows a motor vehicle to
be used, or lets out a motor vehicle for use in contravention of the provisions
of sub-s. (1) of section 42 " may well refer to the owner. That is to say,
this part of s. 123 punishes an owner for contravening the provisions of s.
42(1). The driving of the motor vehicle, however, is a different matter. It
could be driven by the owner himself or by some one other than the owner.
Therefore, the words " whoever drives a
motor vehicle............... in contravention of the provisions of sub-s. (1)
of section 42 " would cover both the owner and one who is not the owner.
What is made punishable is the driving of the motor vehicle by anyone contrary
to the provisions of s. 42(1). That is to say, the motor vehicle 159 cannot be
driven by anyone contrary to the conditions of the permit relating to that
It may here be remarked that there is a
preponderance of judicial opinion in favour of the view that a driver of a
motor vehicle who is not its owner and who drives in contravention of the
conditions of a permit under s. 42(1), would fall within s. 123 of the Act.
Except the High Court of Allahabad the other High Courts are in accord in
holding that such driver would be guilty under s. 123. Public Prosecutor v.
Jevan (1); Provincial Government, C. P. & Berar v. Mohan Lal (2), Chandra
Deo Singh v. The State(3) Teja Singh v. The State (4) ; Kalyan Lal v. The
State(3) The State v. Ram Chandra(5); The State v. Motilal All these cases have
proceeded on the view that thewords whoever drives' are wide enough to include
the case of a non-owner driver who contravenes the provisions of s. 123. Even
in the High Court of Allahabad in an earlier decision Uma Shankar v. Rex (8),
Aggarwala J., was of the opinion that a driver driving in contravention of the
conditions of a permit would fall within s. 123 of the Act.
In our opinion, the interpretation put in
this case by the Allahabad High Court on ss. 42 and 123 is erroneous. We would
therefore allow these appeals, set aside the orders of acquittal and restore
those of the Magistrates convicting the respondents.
(1) A.I.R. 1941 Mad. 845.
(3) (1954) 59 C. W. N. 787.
(5) A.I.R. 1954 Raj. 250.
(7) A.I.R. 1957 Raj.63.
(2) A.I.R. 1944 Nag, 89.
(4) A.I.R. 1952 Punj. 45.
(6) A.I.R. 1955 Raj. 83.
(8) A.I.R. 1950 All. 234.