ISLAMABAD: The decision of the Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) to dole out driving licences to every citizen irrespective of their residential address stands in stark contrast to relevant laws, as these documents can be only issued to the citizens by the respective licensing authority – separate for each district.

According to law experts, there is a traffic police department in each district police headed by the SSP, which is the competent authority to issue licences under Section 7 (Grant of Licence) of the Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1965.

According to Section 7 of this law, “Any person who is not disqualified under Section 4 for driving a motor vehicle and who is not for the time being disqualified for holding or obtaining a licence, may apply to the licensing authority having jurisdiction in the area in which he ordinarily resides or carries on business or, if the application is for a licence to drive as a paid employee, in which the employer resides or carries on business for the issue to him of a licence.”

Under this law, the relevant authority can only issue licenses to those who either reside or have business in its jurisdiction, experts said, adding that the authority can also issue licences to applicants, whose employer either resides or has business in its jurisdiction.

Experts say move to issue licences to ‘outsiders’ violates law; police say otherwise

One of the complications which will arise due to the recent decision of the ITP is the postal address supposed to go on the licence. It is also unclear which address will be mentioned on the licence – permanent or temporary – for applicants residing outside the federal capital. The police spokesperson, however, said that for the time being, the permanent address from the CNIC would be mentioned on the licence.

Similarly, there is no centralised authority for the issuance of licences, which means people can obtain multiple licences from different district traffic police offices and the law asking applicants to get the licence from their district aims to curb this practice.

The issuance of licences to people who do not live in Islamabad will also result in complications in the enforcement of traffic penalties because of potential problems with their residential addresses. In 2014, the ITP in in collaboration with Pakistan Post started delivering licences to applicants’ homes to ensure the implementation of the law, and only the residents of the capital were issued driving licences by the authority. However, the majority of the licences were returned to the ITP headquarters as most of the addresses were “fake”.

Police officials said that people from other districts, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and northern Punjab, are interested in ITP licences as these are certified by the International Organisation for Standardisation and recognised in 80 countries. Moreover, Pakistani citizens registered with the ITP can drive abroad without the need for an international driving licence for one year.

Proposal to IGP

Police officials told Dawn that the ITP SSP had sent a proposal to the Inspector General of Police to legalise the interior minister’s order, as without the amendment in Section 7 of the Motor Vehicle Ordinance, the traffic police cannot issue licences to outsiders.

Legal experts said that in response to the proposal, the IGP could issue standing orders under Section 12 (power to make rules) of the Police Rules. However, the approval of the “provincial government” was still mandatory.

Lawyer Raja Inam Amin Minhas told Dawn that the Motor Vehicle Ordinance was a “proper law” which could not be amended “on the wish and will”. Proper legislation is required for the amendment to the law, he added.

According to Section 22 and 43 of the ordinance, the government “shall make rules”, said Advocate Minhas, adding that the PM and the cabinet were the government, not the IGP or the interior minister. As per the rules, the IGP cannot issue a standing order amending the rules, he added.

The lawyer said the issuing authority in each district could issue licences to citizens in its remits in light of their details, such as domiciles and relevant records, available with them.

Islamabad police spokesperson Taqi Jawad said the interior minister’s instructions to the ITP did not violate any law.

The spokesperson said such people will get licences issued by the ITP after the approval of SSP under Section 7 of MVO.

The PRO also confirmed that the SSP ITP sent a proposal to the IGP to “legalise the instructions” of the minister regarding the issuance of licences to every citizen.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2024

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