It is true that the application of registration is by law required to be made by or on behalf of the owner whose name is to be mentioned in the registration form along with relevant particulars of the vehicle such as engine number and chassis number and hence, registration of a motor vehicle is a post-sale event. But to ascertain place of sale it has to be seen when and where the properties, particularly possession of a motor vehicle passes or can pass legally to the purchaser, authorizing him to apply for registration. Under the scheme of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 the dealer cannot permit the purchaser to use the motor vehicle and thus enjoy its possession unless and until a temporary or permanent registration is obtained by him. Only thereafter, the vehicle can safely be said to be no more under possession of the dealer. Clearly, therefore mere mentioning of engine number and chassis number of a motor vehicle in the invoice of the sale does not entitle the intending purchaser to appropriate all the goods, i.e. the motor vehicle till its possession is or can be lawfully handed over to him by the dealer without violating the statutory provisions governing motor vehicles. Such transfer of possession can take place only when the vehicle reaches the place where the registering authority will be obliged to inspect for the purpose of finding out whether it is a roadworthy and registerable motor vehicle and whether its identification marks tally with those given in the sale invoice and the application for registration . The possession can lawfully be handed over to the purchaser at this juncture because law requires the purchaser as an “owner” to make an application for registration but at the same time the law also prohibits use of the motor vehicle by the owner until it is duly registered by the Registering Authority. Hence, in order to satisfy the requirement of law, the dealer can deliver possession and owner can take possession and present the vehicle for registration only when it reaches the office of Registering Authority. With the handing over of the possession of a specific motor vehicle just prior to registration, the dealer completes the agreement of sale rendering it a perfected sale. The purchaser as an “owner” under the motor Vehicles Act is thereafter obliged to obtain certificate of registration which alone entitles him to enjoy the possession of the vehicle in practical terms by enjoying he right to use the vehicle at public places, after meeting the other statutory obligations of Insurance etc. Hence, technically though the registration of a motor vehicle is a post-sale event, the event of sale is closely linked in time with the event of registration. Neither the manufacturer nor the dealer of a motor vehicle can permit the intended purchaser having an agreement of sale to use the motor vehicle even for taking it to the registration office in view of the statutory provisions already noticed. Hence lawful possession with the right of use is permissible to be given to the intended owner only after reaching the vehicle to the office of Registering Authority. Thus seen, in practical terms though sale precedes the event of registration, in normal circumstances and as the law stands, it is co-terminus with registration of a new motor vehicle. A motor vehicle remains in the category of unascertained or future goods till its appropriation to the contract of sale by the seller is occasioned by handing over its possession at or near the office of registration authority in a deliverable and registrable state. Only after getting certificate of registration the owner becomes entitled to enjoy the benefits of possession and can obtain required certificate of insurance in his name and meet other requirements of law to use the motor vehicle at any public place. Even if the motor vehicles were to be treated as specific and ascertained goods at the time when the sale invoice with all the specific particulars may be issued, according to Section 21 of the Sale of Goods Act, in case of such a contract for sale also, when the seller is bound to do something to the goods for the purpose of putting them into a deliverable state, the property does not pass until such thing is done and the buyer has notice thereof. In the light of circumstances governing motor vehicle which may safely be gathered even from the Motor Vehicles Act and the Rules, it is obvious that the seller or the manufacturer/dealer is bound to transport the motor vehicle to the office of registering authority and only when it reaches there safe and sound, in accordance with the statutory provisions governing motor vehicles it can be said to be in a deliverable state and only then the property in such a motor vehicle can pass to the buyer once he has been given notice that the motor vehicle is fit and ready for his lawful possession and registration.
Reference: SC. Commissioner of Commercial Taxes, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala v. M/s. K.T.C. Automobiles, civil appeal no. 2446 of 2007.