Buying a car is a dream for everyone, even if it a first handed or the second handed one. Everyone likes the car and they wish to own one. After owning such a car, most of the people tend to keep it as original one that came from showroom. But some people, especially the Youngsters, wants their car to get matched to their tastes and preference. So, they would like to modify their car a little to look sportier and differentiate from rest of the cars in a unique way. It is estimated that the vehicle modification and aftermarket industry had pegged rupees fifty crores (Rs. 50 crores). Majority of the money comes from the Car modification. It can cost thousands to lakhs and even a million to modify a Car according to the owner’s taste and preference.

Are modified cars illegal in India?

Yes, but on some extent. On January 2019, The supreme court of India ruled that “No owner of a motor vehicle shall so alter the vehicle that the particulars contained in the certificate of registration are at variance with those originally specified by the manufacturer”. In the Basic terms, Supreme court says that a motor vehicle should not be modified in such a way that it does not affect the physical and structural features at any cause. Even if the Engine or chassis gets modified, then it is termed as illegal. Car enthusiasts have deepest pleasure to tune the car’s engine to produce more power and to modify exhaust systems to make the engine roar to perform like high performance vehicle. But this mode of modification directly into the engine of a car is illegal as of now.

But there are some exceptions which the government allows us to modify our cars with the specified modifications. At the same time, we are free to change the color of the vehicle but, we have to inform which color to the RTO (Regional Transport Office) but it has to be the one which the RTO approved. Because there are some colors such as Battle Green or olive green (Should be used only by the military vehicles) are not allowed to be painted on people’s vehicles. Also, Fuel kits like CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) and LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) tanks can be added to the compatible vehicles. A high-performance suspension can be added to the cars for better ride quality and Minor modifications like decals, door protectors, Rain Guards, Small stickers can be added to the car without any illegalities. Tyre of the car can also be changed only if the base variant car owner opt to the change the tyre of that car to the tyre of the Top variant car. These are some of the modifications made to a car that are legal. But before making major modifications into a car, it should be informed to RTO to get approved and update relevant information in the vehicle’s RC (Registration Certificate).

Then What is illegal?

The illegal modifications that are made to a car are as follows:

  • Changing the width of a tyre to an extent making the tyre bulge out of the body of a car.
  • Changing the horn into a louder one, making it to cause noise pollution.
  • Changing the width and Length of a car and making to a bigger one by body parts.
  • Tinting the windows of a car to a higher shade. But Tinted windows given by the car manufacturer is allowed with some conditions applied.
  • Overpowering the engine capacity and increase the power and increase the efficiency.
  • Changing the width of the alloys.
  • Installing the fancy number plate in the form that is not specified by the government.
  • Installing the extra lights with addition to headlights and indicators.
  • Adding the over louder exhaust systems.
  • Modifying by cutting of the Roof and making the car a convertible one.
  • Adding up the Nitrous Inoculation Kit
  • Increasing the weight of the car
  • Vinyl Wrapping the car without informing the RTO.
  • Upsizing the tyre of the car
  • Adding up the Neon lighting to the car
  • Adding subwoofer and playing the music too loud

These are some modifications made illegal by the Supreme Court of India in Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill of 2019.

Section 52 on The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988:

Section 52 on the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 notifies about the alterations that must be made in motor vehicles. It simply says, “No owner of a motor vehicle shall so alter the vehicle that the particulars contained in the certificate of registration are at variance with those originally specified by the manufacturer: Provided that where the owner of a motor vehicle makes modification of the engine, or any part thereof, of a vehicle for facilitating its operation by different type of fuel or source of energy including battery, compressed natural gas, solar power, liquid petroleum gas or any other fuel or source of energy, by fitment of a conversion kit, such modification shall be carried out subject to such conditions as may be prescribed: Provided further that the Central Government may prescribe specifications, conditions for approval, retro-fitment and other related matters for such conversion kits: Provided also that the Central Government may grant exemption for alteration of vehicles in a manner other than specified above, for any specific purpose.”

Kerala High Court Judgement and the Supreme court Judgement:

Earlier, the division bench of Kerala High court said that the structural modification made to the motor vehicles are permissible as per the provision of the Kerala motor vehicles rules of 1989. Therefore, Kerala is home for the many modified cars and the fanbase for the modified vehicles are very huge till today. Here is what the Supreme Court’s judgment that overturns the Kerala High Court judgment says “In our considered opinion the Division Bench in the impugned judgment of the High Court of Kerala has failed to give effect to the provisions contained in section 52(1) and has emphasized only on the Rules. As such, the decision rendered by the Division Bench cannot be said to be laying down the law correctly. The Rules are subservient to the provisions of the Act and in certificate of registration can also be changed except to the extent of the entries made in the same as per the specifications originally made by the manufacturer. Circular No.7/2006 is also to be read in that spirit. Authorities to act accordingly.” This supreme court judgement is given by a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran

The Challenges ahead:

The rules simply say that, the modifications made to structure and engine are illegal in India. But the youngsters and A Car enthusiast are fond of making these modifications in their car. The Government should legalize these modifications and imply strict rule to define the extent of adding the power in a vehicle’s engine modification and define the maximum decibel limit the exhausts can make. Also, the government should legalize some sort modifications to the body as the customers liking and not to change the manufacturer identity. Because, if the maker and model is not identified or hidden by the modifier, In case of hit and run case the car could not be identified by the eye-witness and it may become very difficult to identify the criminal.


The automobile sector in India is very huge. It Is believed that the automakers of India will approach the Government to amend the motor vehicles Act to allow a certain degree of modification. As of now, the Supreme court of India ensures maximum safety in the vehicles and should also understand that all the modifications are not bad. Also, these manufacturers should also recommend the aftermarket parts that does not make their automobiles exceed the safety levels.


Author: SriKanth R,
2nd Semester | BBA., LLb., | IFIM LAW SCHOOL, BANGALORE.

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