Rajasthan High Court Orders Cancellation Of Driving Licences Issued To Illiterate Persons

Rajasthan High Court makes literacy an essential condition for getting a driving licence.

Traffic moves along a highway during evening rush hour in Delhi, India (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)
Traffic moves along a highway during evening rush hour in Delhi, India (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

The Rajasthan High Court ordered the state to cancel all driving licences issued to illiterate persons.

The judgment was passed in a writ petition filed by a person seeking a licence to drive transport vehicle on ground that he had been issued a licence to ride light motor vehicle 13 years ago.

While the court heard the petition, it noted that the petitioner was illiterate and still was granted a licence.

“Such people are a menace for the pedestrians as they would not be in a position to understand road signs and notices of caution written on boards for human safety on the highways as well as on the roads in the cities,’’ Justice Sanjeev Prakash Sharma said while rejecting the petitioner’s request.

Senior lawyers, however, don’t agree.

The judgment is unconstitutional as the conditions for driving are mentioned statutorily and cannot be done by the court, according to senior advocate Anand Grover. “It will deprive people of their livelihood. In this judgment, the Article 21 is violated,” he told BloombergQuint. “Literacy is not a condition for driving in the statues. The signals are not in words, they are symbols so that anybody can drive.’’

Alok Prasanna Kumar, senior resident fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, said the judgment is illegal and without any basis in law. The court, he said, has violated the basic principle of natural justice in not giving a hearing to those whose licences will be cancelled.

“You don’t issue notice, you don’t address any arguments, you don’t take any facts into account but simply pass an order because you can. That’s not how high courts are supposed to function. The Rajashtan High Court should immediately stay it on appeal and not expect the government to implement it,’’ said Prasanna Kumar.

The Rajasthan High Court has asked the state transport authorities to lay down appropriate guidelines for issuance of licences, according to the court’s order. The authorities will have to submit a report on the actions taken based on the directions issued by the court within a month.

It seems that here rationality may be plausible on the surface but on deeper examination it appears to be lacking, according to advocate Apar Gupta. “The ability of the driver to be disciplined comes from the licence itself which may be cancelled for indiscipline.”

Gupta also said the judgment ignores the economic reality that commercial driving is also done by people who don’t necessarily have access or opportunity for formal education. “When we extend economic opportunity based on state monopoly such as ability to drive a transport vehicle, it should be inclusive rather than it being exclusive.’’