Supreme Court halts distribution of embossed vehicle number plates

Kathmandu, February 22

The Supreme Court today directed the government to put on hold the distribution of embossed number plates for vehicles.

Responding to a writ petition filed by Bharat Basnet that demanded the use of Devnagari script on the embossed number plates, a single bench of Chief Justice Gopal Parajuli issued a stay order today and ordered the government to pause the distribution of embossed vehicle number plates.

Such digital vehicle licence plates that the government is issuing incorporates significant and relevant information like vehicle number, type of vehicle and the Province/State where the vehicle is registered, in English.

Spokesperson for the apex court Narayan Prasad Panthi said the related government agencies involved in the embossed number plate distribution process had been called to furnish details on why Devnagari script could not be incorporated in the embossed number plates.

The writ petitioner had also stated that bypassing Devnagari script in the embossed number plates undermines Nepali culture and language.

The apex court’s stay order to this effect means that the government is certain to face a hard time implementing the embossed plating system. Moreover, the Department of Transport Management has already fitted such digital number plates on almost 2,500 vehicles and has collected fees from more than 8,000 applicants.

However, this is not the first time that the embossed number plate distribution has been halted. Initially, DoTM had begun installing the embossed number plates for vehicles on the basis of zonal format on August 21. However, the then parliamentary committee directed DoTM to distribute these digital plates under provincial format as Nepal had already adopted federalism. Following such direction, the embossed number plate distribution was halted for two months before it was resumed in October-end.

Meanwhile, DoTM officials said Devnagari script was not incorporated in the embossed number

plates following recommendation of a government study. “The government study report stated that IT infrastructure required for printing embossed number plates in Devnagari had not been developed,” Rupnarayan Bhattarai, director general at DoTM, told THT.

Bhattarai added that the study report suggested that DoTM print embossed number plates in English in the backdrop of four SAARC countries — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal — sealing a Motor Vehicle Agreement in 2015, paving the way for free movement of vehicles, people and goods among the four SAARC member-states.

“The use of English language in the number plates was expected to ease the movement of Nepali vehicles in these SAARC states,” added Bhattarai.

However, Bhattarai said DoTM would stop the embossed number plate printing and distribution until further notice from the court.