A Single Judge Bench of the Madras High Court comprising of Hon’ble Justice G R Swaminathan, has in the case of M. Ramachandran v. Regional Transport Office, Dindigul, observed that impounding or confiscating the license of the petitioner (driver involved in an accident claim case) by the administrative authority, while the case was pending was not appropriate and it should be returned without any delay.
“It is only the jurisdictional Criminal Court or the Claims Tribunal that can decide the issue. It may not be open to an administrative authority to give any finding on this issue. Particularly when the investigation is still pending.”
While directing the Respondent to return the driving license of the Petitioner, the Court stated that: “if the petitioner’s license is impounded and not returned to the petitioner, he will not be able to discharge his duty as driver. If the petitioner is found innocent later, the clock cannot be put back”.
The Court was of the view that the impounding or suspension or cancellation of the petitioner’s license can be resorted to only after finding the petitioner’s guilty of negligence. The Court also laid emphasis on the judgment passed by the Division Bench of the Madras High Court itself in the case of P. Sethuram v. The Licensing Authority, the Regional Transport Officer, Dindigul in which it was held that:
“The respondent has, in the impugned order, pre-concluded the issue that the appellant is guilty of rash and negligent driving, even before the Criminal Court or the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal went into the issue. Even to invoke Section 19(1)(c), it is necessary to show that the Motor Vehicle is used in the commission of a cognizable offence. Without making a specific averment regarding the same, the order suspending the driving licence cannot be taken to be passed after due application of mind.”
Hence, the Bench allowed the Writ Petition, by directing the Respondent to return the Driving License without any delay.