The Bombay High Court on August 2, 2019, in the case of Mahesh Mehervan Havewalla v. The State of Maharashtra has refused to accept the prosecution's stand that the petitioner had indulged in forgery and cheating by using an old number plate on an unregistered vehicle he was driving. The court held that it was an offence under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
The Bench comprising of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati H. Dangre was hearing a criminal writ petition filed by the petitioner being aggrieved by a criminal case registered against him based on an FIR lodged by traffic constable Abasahib Mohite.
Mohite had caught petitioner on February 7, 2019, driving a Nissan Sunny car with an old number plate. Petitioner admitted that he had procured the car from the Customs Department and it was not registered but he was using the registration number of his old car.
Based on this, offences punishable under Section 420 and 465 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, were invoked and, after investigation, charge-sheet was filed before the Court of Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Thane, pursuant to which criminal case was registered.
APP for the state Dr. F.R. Shaikh submitted before the court that since the petitioner without obtaining registration of the vehicle had forged the number plate and used the same as if the new car is registered, the said provisions under cheating and forgery were invoked.
Referring to the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, he submitted that every vehicle requires registration in terms of Section 39 of the said enactment and no person shall drive any motor vehicle in any public place or in any other place unless the vehicle is registered in accordance with Chapter IV and the registration is obtained.
The petitioner has admitted that he has not registered his vehicle and not only that he had to put to use the number plate of his old car and indulged himself in forgery as contemplated under Section 463 of the IPC and, therefore, he has rightly been charged under Section 465 of the IPC, Dr. Shaikh said.
After hearing both the parties, the Bench observed: "Running a vehicle in public place without registration is an offence under the purview of the Motor Vehicle Act and, in particular, Section 192 of the said Act which makes an act of using the vehicle without registration punishable with a fine which may extend to Rs.5,000. However, we are not ready to accept the contention of Dr. Shaikh that the petitioner had indulged himself into an act of forgery since the definition of forgery as contained in Section 463 of the IPC makes abundantly clear that basic elements of forgery are making of a false document and such making should be with an intention as specified in Section 463 of the IPC to cause damage or injury to the public or to any person or to support any claim or title, or cause any person to part with property or, or to enter into any express or implied contract, or for commission of fraud."
The court explained that it was not the case of the prosecution that the number plate of the registration was fake or made fictitiously or that it was not in existence. On the other hand, the petitioner had already obtained the registration number in respect of his other car by following the procedure prescribed under the Motor Vehicle Act and in terms of Section 192 of the Motor Vehicles Act, for running a vehicle without registration, the petitioner may be levied a penalty.
"Similarly, the act of cheating with which the petitioner is charged, also not made out against the petitioner since the acts do not fall and satisfy the ingredients of either of these sections,” the court noted.
Thus, the court quashed and set aside the criminal case registered against the petitioner and granted the police authorities liberty to proceed against him under Section 192 of the Motor Vehicles Act. The court also directed the petitioner to register his vehicle before running it on the road.