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Transport Ministry plans to mandate linking mobile number to vehicle registration certificate

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) is planning to mandate linking mobile numbers of vehicle owners to their vehicle registration certificate (RC). Mobile numbers will also be required for renewal of an RC. These provisions are a part of draft rules that propose to amend the existing Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989. MoRTH is currently inviting suggestions and objections to the draft, and the final rules will come into effect on April 1, 2020. Comments can be emailed to the Joint Secretary (MVL) at jspb-morth@gov.in until an unspecified date.

Mobile numbers will potentially be needed for:

  • Application for a new RC
    • A person can choose to have their mobile number on the RC
    • The registering authority will have a copy of the application, meaning that state governments will have access to the mobile numbers of all the people who apply for an RC
  • Renewal of RC of passenger vehicles
  • Obtaining a duplicate RC
  • Application of a new registration mark for a vehicle
  • Application and grant of a no-objection certificate
  • Transferring ownership of a vehicle
    • Under the amended Motor Vehicles Act, 2019, a person has to apply for transferring the ownership of a vehicle, and the registering authority issues an NOC in return to acknowledge the transfer.
  • Transferring ownership of a vehicle which is acquired or purchased from a public auction
  • Intimating the registering authority about a change in address/residence
  • Registering a vehicle by or on behalf of a diplomatic consul officer
  • Application of a registration certificate in the name of the financier
  • Notifying termination of vehicle lease agreement
  • Application for making entry of an agreement of hire purchase/lease hypothecation

The draft rules don’t specify what would happen if a person loses access to their mobile number with which they applied for an RC.

MoRTH is selling vehicle registration and driver’s license data

This can potentially be a very problematic set of amendments since the ministry will essentially collect mobile numbers of people, which it can in turn monetise. MoRTH has already sold vehicle registration and drivers’ license data to several public and private entities. Through an RTI, we found out that as of September 2019, the ministry had sold these databases to 142 entities which include 30 public and private sector banks, 20 logistics solution providers, 19 finance organisations, 18 insurance organisations and 5 automobile manufacturers, and had earned more than Rs 68 crore. Entities such as State Bank of India, Mercedes, ICICI Lombard and Ola had purchased this database.

Read more: SBI, Mercedes and ICICI Lombard among the 142 entities that bought vehicle registration data from government

The ministry is selling these databases by means of a legislation. In March, MoRTH had released the Bulk Data Sharing Policy and Procedure which allows it to sell Vahan (registration) and Sarthi (drivers licence) databases. The Vahan database includes things like:

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  • Registration number of vehicle
  • Engine number
  • Model name
  • Dealer’s name
  • Financer’s name
  • Insurance company

Problematically, the ministry said in the policy that there is a chance of “triangulation” (matching different data-sets that together could enable individuals to be identified and their privacy compromised) of this database to identify a person. If these draft amendments do make it to the final rules, will MoRTH then also include mobile numbers in these databases and sell it? Will that definitely not make it easy to identify an individual?

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