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The Article ‘Is it legal to put stickers on cars in India?’ is an elaborative discussion on stickers and whether applying stickers on cars has been legally recognized or not. The Article deals with the certain provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, its relevance as well as certain case laws. The law prohibits the use of taglines and scribbles that are painted on the vehicles but, there is a provision that prohibits the use of stickers on vehicles.
It is the author’s outburst that the stickers should be provided to an individual depending on his/her requirement. So, they get what they deserve. Thus, there has to be taken caution and no illegal activities should be associated with the use of stickers.
Do you have a ‘Buri Nazar, if yes, then your face might go black. No, I am not saying this, the trucks say this when you drive behind them, and a lot more funny taglines that can make you laugh so hard that you are very likely to get distracted and end up in an accident; and not sure about ‘muh kala’ but red blood all over for sure. If it is so much possible that taglines or dialogues behind vehicles can distract the other drivers, then why is it permissible to scribble behind vehicles at all? Who allows them? Is it legal?
Once I and my friend were driving on the main road, and she started murmuring, there goes a doctor, an advocate, a media person, a police bike and see, there goes ‘mom’s gift’ bike. “Wait, I am not getting it,” I said. Oho! She said that she knows who all are passing by, it is easy to guess because the doctor has a caduceus sticker on his car, and the advocate has a round black and white sticker that has a neckband and it says advocate, and I see press written in red and police written in blue and red on vehicles, so I think I’ll put a sticker that says ‘artist’ on it.
I wondered then, are these even legal?
What is a Sticker?
A sticker is a type of label that is made from vinyl sheets and lasts for a long time. Stickers comprise two components,
- first, the paper that is peeled off, and
- second is the label part that has the adhesive on the back so that it can stick to the surface and something written or a sign in the front part that is visible when it is stuck.
In general, a sticker can be the one that children stick on their notebooks the ones used on cold drink bottles, and also the ones that I used on cars. A quality sticker that is used on cars usually lasts up to 5 + years. Other than stickers, there exist decals.
If we go simply by the meaning of the terms and ask it from Google, it tells us that a sticker is an adhesive label or notice, generally printed or illustrated. Whereas, a decal is a design prepared on special paper for transferring onto another surface such as glass, porcelain, or metal. But why do we need to understand this? This is because people often think that stickers are illegal but decals are legal, but that is not the case. Both come under the offence under Section-177 of the Motor Vehicle Act.
Why do people use it?
Some people put stickers of their names as if they don’t have the original papers of the vehicle to prove that the car belongs to them. While some sets of people stick the name of their children/spouse/parents on the cars. Why? I think those people have a tendency to forget the names of their family members and hence, they go back to the vehicle to read the sticker and recall the name of their kids. And why do people write their titles, caste, race, and religious beliefs?
With whatever intent they do so, they fail to understand that it only adds oil to the fire of communal disharmony and is unlawful.
An advocate won’t get a client while he is driving, neither a doctor can attract patients on the road and the police can stop injustice anywhere without first proving through stickers on the vehicles that they are police, as their id cards/uniforms are enough to testify their authority. The stickers are also used for the purpose of escaping from a crime. The police often do not stop the vehicles having such stickers and that’s when these people take advantage of running from the clutches of the law.
So, is it legal to put stickers on cars?
Section 177 of the Motor Vehicle Act says:
Whoever contravenes any provision of this Act or of any rule, regulation or notification made thereunder shall, if no penalty is provided for the offence be punishable for the first offence with fine which may extend to one hundred rupees, and for any second or subsequent offence with fine which may extend to three hundred rupees.
This section is a residuary penalty clause which implies that this clause puts an obligation on the party at fault to pay compensation for any contravention they make in relation to the act or rule, regulation, or notification related to it. Hence, we can clearly deduce that the act of sticking stickers on cars is not permissible by law i.e. illegal.
Furthermore, Section 49 of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules 1989 says:
Each plate shall be protected against counterfeiting by applying chromium based hologram, applied by hot stamping. Stickers and adhesive labels are not permitted. The plate shall bear a permanent consecutive identification number of minimum seven digits, to be laser branded into the reflective sheeting and hot stamping film shall bear a verification inscription.
So, if we go by this law, we see that stickers and adhesive labels are not permitted on the registration plate.
Going by the former section mentioned above clearly states that, if a car is found with a sticker for the first time, it is to be fined Rs.100, and thereafter on every occasion, the fine will be Rs. 300.
If it is illegal, why is it being distributed?
Other than advocates and budding law aspirants who wait to get their stickers after qualifying bar council exam, very few people know that the stickers are given to advocates by the Bar Council of India, and the stickers are given to doctors by the state and that too for a valid reason. The population of India is huge, it is a developing nation in terms of skills and money but not in terms of land, so people can buy a ford car but the government cannot extend their territory. Are you Confused?
The parking spaces in hospitals and in courts are limited, so having these stickers on the car gets the person a permanent parking space as the authority can easily identify them as doctors and advocates. In courts, cars other than that of an advocate or a judge are rarely allowed and for that, the sticker helps, not having one on the car makes them show their permit/id card each time they enter and exit and sometimes it might prove disastrous for them as they can be in hurry.
The court has however allowed the government officials to use such stickers only while they are travelling for official purposes. 
V.Ramesh v. The Vice-Chancellor on 19 August 2021 [W.P.(MD). No.15931 of 2020]
This case came up before the Madras High Court in 2020. In this case, a speeding car with a sticker of an advocate, despite being signalled to stop didn’t pull over. After chasing the card of your yards the car was finally blocked by the police and in the search, the police found a heavy quantity of ganja, and one of the revenue officials was also found seated in the car. The issues that arose were:
- Whether the vehicle owners permitted to have halogen lights, Chinese lights, and high beam lights in their vehicles?
- Whether the motor vehicle owners can have Flagged in their cars and the names of the Political Parties to which they belong, being pasted on the glasses?
- Whether the vehicle owners entitled to have tinted glasses?
- Whether the vehicle owners can display photographs or portraits of the political leaders in their cars?
- Whether the vehicle owners entitled to have boards in their cars according to their whims and fancies?
- What is the permitted size and number of lights in each vehicle viz., two-wheelers, autos, four-wheelers, and other vehicles?
- Whether the number board of the vehicles could be changed as per the wishes of the owners?
The court answering to issues numbers two, for and five said that putting flags and designation boards on the car is a direct measure to stop the police officials from checking the vehicle and it also deters the policemen from discharging their duties. If at all such signs are so important then the portrait or the sticker must be pasted inwards and not outwards.
The court also ordered the respondents to instruct the owners of the vehicles to remove the portraits/photos which have been fixed on the dashboard facing outside within sixty days, a failure of which shall attract fines and punishment to the vehicle owners.
Going back to where we started, there is no such law prohibiting the use of taglines and scribbles that are painted on the vehicles but, as mentioned earlier there is a provision that prohibits the use of stickers on vehicles. Although Section 1 of the Motor Vehicle Act says that it extends to the whole of India, however, Section 177 which prohibits the use of stickers seems to be taken for granted.
Using stickers in some states is banned and is punishable with fines up to Rs.300 whereas, in some states, it is not even banned and people are free to hide behind these stickers and carry on their unlawful activities.
Stickers allotted to doctors and other eminent occupation holders are for other purposes like time-saving and separate recognition, but the same eminent people tend to misuse these signs for their own privilege, to figure out personal agendas,s and to even carry out illegal acts. The advocate, the police, and the press vehicles even break the signals, and many times the police dare not stop them. Why is it so? Indeed they are respectable citizens as they are learned and skilled and intellectual maybe, but they are still citizens.
In this democracy, the constitution does not mention set ‘A’ of rules for citizens and set ‘B’ for the extra learned ones, which implies that we all are the same when it comes to getting our rights and even discharging our duties.
So far as the sticker war is concerned, the problem lies at the implementation end. Instead of abolishing the system, the system should be made robust. Stickers should only be allotted to the deserving ones, checking needs to be even more stringent and the ones who have got these privileges by the constitutional bodies of putting stickers must be even more cautious to not carry out any unlawful act and take the law for granted.
 V.Ramesh v. The Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Ambedkar Law University And Ors., W.P. (MD) No. 15931 of 2020