Can Vehicle owner be jailed if a minor takes car for a spin? Here’s the Motor Vehicles Act

On Sunday morning, a 17-year-old Porsche driver crashed into a bike and killed two young software engineers. The teenager’s father, Vishal Agarwal, was arrested for letting a minor drive a motor vehicle and for failing to carry out his duties as a guardian after a criminal case over the deaths. This incident gives rise to several questions. Can people be jailed if a minor takes their car out for a spin? What is the maximum punishment and on whom is the onus to prove that the child didn’t have consent from the adult to drive the vehicle?

Vishal Agarwal, the father of the boy involved in the Porsche accident, has been charged under two laws — the Juvenile Justice Act and the Motor Vehicles Act.

The father, a prominent builder, has been booked under Sections 75 and 77 of the Juvenile Justice Act and under 199 (A) of the Motor Vehicles (MV) Act.

Let’s first see what the MV Act’s penal provisions are when it comes to underage driving.

The MV Act, which was amended in 2019, makes parents and guardians responsible if their underage child is driving a motor vehicle.

This amendment was brought in after India saw a rise in traffic offences by juveniles.

Under the new Section 199 (A) of the Motor Vehicle Act, the owner of the vehicle will be responsible and can be imprisoned for three years or be fined Rs 25,000 if a minor drives the vehicle.

However, an offence by a minor wouldn’t land the vehicle owner in jail. The jail provision kicks in only if a criminal case under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is filed.

The father of the Porsche driver has been arrested and faces three years in jail because a case of culpable homicide under Section 304 was filed against the teenager.

The MV Act also allows the registration of such a vehicle to be cancelled.

The burden of proof of not having given consent lies with the vehicle owner in the case a minor is caught driving a motor vehicle.

The court presumes that the vehicle was taken out with the knowledge of the parent or the guardian. The vehicle owner will have to prove otherwise to avoid imprisonment or fine altogether.

The MV Act says the vehicle owner won’t be liable to punishment if the minor has been granted a learner’s licence. A learner’s licence can be granted upon attaining the age of 16.

What has to be remembered is that a minor driving a motor vehicle without a learner’s licence is an offence in itself.

For example, a motorcycle owner was slapped with a fine of Rs 42,500 in Odisha’s Bhadrak district in 2020 for allowing a minor to ride his bike.

Police officers keep on reminding people about the MV Act and its penal provisions for vehicle owners.

“Don’t allow minor children to drive the car/bike. Driving a vehicle by minor children is dangerous for himself and others also. It is also an offence under Section-199A of the Motor Vehicles Act,” an ACP of Delhi Police posted in June 2023.

The Porsche in the Pune case was bought in March and did not have a licence plate and had not paid ₹44 lakh road tax for the car and the boy did not have a licence.

The father has also been booked under Sections 75 and 77 of the Juvenile Justice Act for letting his child consume alcohol and drive the car intoxicated. That’s because he failed to perform his duties as a guardian.

Maharashtra Transport Commissioner Vivek Bhimanwar revealed the boy would be banned from getting a driving licence till he was 25, also under the MV act.

The teenager is being charged with culpable homicide under Section 304, because he had knowledge of his reckless act and that he was driving at a high speed after drinking alcohol and this could have led to death.

Children are often seen driving motor vehicles. It is for guardians to explain to them that they might not bring harm just to themselves, but to other commuters. People should also keep in mind that the amended Motor Vehicles Act has a provision that could get them jailed for up to three years if the vehicle being used by a minor is involved in any criminal offence under the IPC.

Published By:

India Today Web Desk

Published On:

May 22, 2024

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