The Centre has extended until September 30 the validity of driving licenses, vehicle registration certificates, fitness certificates, and all kinds of permits, which expired after February 2020 and could not be renewed because of the restrictions imposed to check the Covid-19 pandemic. In an advisory, the Union road transport and highways ministry on Thursday directed transport departments against prosecuting motorists using the documents that have expired since February last year.

Driving without a valid license attracts a penalty of ₹5,000 while the penalties for other invalid documents are ₹ 5,000 (registration certificate), ₹ 10,000 (permit), ₹ 2,000-5,000 (fitness certificate).  

Officials clarified that expired Pollution Under Control certificates have not been granted an extension in their validity.

'Taking into consideration the grim situation... it is advised that the validity of all the referred documents, whose extension of validity could not or was not likely be granted due to lockdown and which had expired since 1st of Feb, 2020 or would expire by 30th September, 2021, the same may be treated to be valid till 30th September, 2021. Enforcement authorities are advised to treat such documents valid till 30th September, 2021,' said the advisory. 'All the States and Union Territories are requested to implement this advisory in letter and spirit so that the citizens, transporters and various other organizations, which are operating under this difficult time, may not get harassed and face difficulties.'

The Delhi transport department was expected to issue a specific order following the Centre's directive, officials said. This is the sixth such extension after earlier advisories in this regard.

A transport department official requested people against queuing up at Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) in Delhi unless one has to get a learner or a permanent license for the first time. 'The ministry has extended the validity of fitness, permits, licenses, registration or other documents under Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989, till September 30,' said the official, who did not want to be named.

The state transport department said it was burdened with a deluge of queries regarding driving licenses, fitness certificates, and permit renewals. The processing of driving licences involves a waiting period of up to two months. The RTO at New Delhi's Sarai Kale Khan is one of the busiest transport offices in the city. It would conduct up to 250 driving tests on its semi-automatic driving test tracks daily before the pandemic. Now, only around 80 tests are conducted daily. The number of online tests for learners' licenses has come down to 50 daily.

A second transport official cited social distancing norms, which cannot be compromised with, and added they have capped the number of daily driving tests at RTOs. 'Hence, the demand is naturally much higher. We are also trying to make people aware of the Central government's latest relaxed rules for expired transport documents. So, there is no need to panic and come to the RTOs for renewal as of now.'

Delhi's government move to make at least 12 transport services fully online has taken some load off the RTOs. Processing of learner licenses and permanent driving licences for the first time needs applicants to visit RTOs for required tests. The government also plans to make the learner's license process completely online. An applicant is expected to take an online test at home before the issuance of an e-learner's license.
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