Thursday, February 24, 2011




dari kes mahkamah

This was an application by the applicant for an order of certiorari to quash the 1st respondent’s decision refusing to issue a motorvehicle licence for a vehicle belonging to the applicant (‘said vehicle’). The applicant also applied for an order of mandamus directing the 1st or 2nd respondent to issue a motor vehicle licence for the said vehicle to the applicant upon payment of the prescribed fee by him. The reason for the 1st respondent’s refusal to issue the licence was that the applicant purportedly had an outstanding traffic police summons (‘exh. L2’) in respect of another vehicle. For this reason the applicant’s name and identity card number appeared on the computer systems of the Road Transport Department (‘RTD’) as a person with an outstanding summons; hence, the respondents blacklisted his name. The blacklisting was apparently automatic and the respondents never conducted an inquiry before blacklisting the applicant. The applicant was also not informed of the blacklisting, only learning about it when he went to the 2nd respondent to apply for and renew his motor vehicle licence for the said vehicle.

The Federal Counsel submitted that the 2nd respondent had exercised his discretion lawfully and reasonably under s. 17(1)(d) of the Road Transport Act 1987 (‘RTA’) in blacklisting the applicant and refusing to issue a motor licence in respect of the said vehicle. The applicant, however, contended that the 2nd respondent’s decision was unlawful and unreasonable. He argued that under s. 17(1)(d) of the RTA, the 2nd Respondent had to be satisfied that there had been a contravention of or offence against the RTA or the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board Act 1987 (‘CVLBA’) and to be so satisfied, the 2nd respondent must have evidence that the contravention or offence had been positively established or proven in a court of law.

Held (allowing the application; Deputy Registrar to assess damages suffered by applicant):

(1) The language in s. 17(1)(d) of the RTA should be given a strict and narrow interpretation to avoid injustice done to motorists in that the expression “outstanding matter or case with the RTD or the police relating to any contravention of or offence against the RTA or the CVLBA” should be confined only to a matter or case that has gone to court and in which the applicant had failed to appear to answer the charge on the offence or contravention for which the summons was issued, and also to a matter or case under investigation by the RTD or the police and pending the outcome of such investigation. In this case, there was no evidence that the 2nd respondent had satisfied himself that the applicant had been charged in a court of law for the offence stated in exh. L2 or whether the offence alleged had been proven in a court of law against the applicant. (paras 39 & 40)

(2) The exercise of discretion by the 2nd respondent not to issue the motor vehicle licence to the applicant in respect of the said vehicle had violated the principle of “Wednesbury unreasonableness”. In public law, it is one of the well recognised grounds upon which a decision of a public decision-maker may be challenged in the courts. The recent trend of cases applying the “Wednesbury unreasonableness” principle in judicial review shows that it is not confined only to the examination of the process of decision-making but also to the merits of the decision. (para 44)

(3) On the facts, it was obvious on the face of exh. L2 that the offence which the applicant was said to have committed was an offence in the future. Whether the summons was wrongly dated as claimed by the respondents was a question of fact that could only be established after hearing all the evidence. On this fact alone, no reasonable man would blacklist the applicant because it was obvious that the summons could be challenged for this irregularity. (para 45)

(4) The blacklisting of the applicant was tantamount to compelling the applicant to admit to the alleged offence and pay the compound. This conclusion seemed to have the support of the Federal Counsel when she told the court that the purpose of s. 17(1)(d) of the RTA is to ensure that a person issued with a traffic summons pays the summons. Clearly, therefore, such purpose of the statutory provision would be an affront to the basic principle of criminal law that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. (para 47)

(5) Under s. 15(1) of the RTA usage of a motor vehicle on public roads requires a motor vehicle licence, and sub-s. (4) of the same section makes it an offence for using or permitting to be used a motor vehicle without a motor vehicle licence. Therefore, to deny a person a motor vehicle licence to which he is entitled upon complying with the requirements of the law is to deny the person the use and enjoyment of his motorvehicle. Such denial would also be in contravention of art. 13 of the Federal Constitution, under which a person cannot be deprived of his or her property except in accordance with the law. The meaning of deprivation in art. 13 should be interpreted liberally and broadly to include any act that would deprive a person of the use and enjoyment of his property. (paras 48, 49 & 50)

(6) Reading s. 17 of the RTA as a whole, it should be implied in s. 17(1)(d) that an applicant that has been blacklisted and refused a motor vehicle licence should also be notified of the blacklisting and refusal and be accorded an opportunity to make representation to the licensed registrar. This is pertinent because the blacklisting is done mechanically without any inquiry. It all depends on whether an applicant’s name appears in the RTD’s computer system as a person who has an outstanding matter or case with the RTD or police in relation to a contravention of or an offence against the RTA or
CVLB. (para 55)

(7) Thus, the decision of the respondents to blacklist the applicant and not issue him with a licence for the said vehicle was not only unreasonable but also unlawful. (para 56)

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