A vehicle’s license plate is commonly known as ‘a number plate’. It is a metal plate which is attached to a vehicle and has the official registration number of a vehicle embossed on it. While it may seem like random numbering, the official license plate number in India consists of 4 different parts, each of which has a specific purpose. Number plates are placed at the front and back of the vehicle and help anyone to identify a vehicle.
The format of the vehicle number plate is as follows:
The first part indicates the state or Union territory, this is denoted by two letters. For example, in the state of Maharashtra, a vehicle number plate starts with the code ‘MH”, in Gujarat with ‘GJ” and in Delhi as ‘DL’. The 2 most significant alphabets of the state’s name are used. This method began in the 1980s.
The next 2 digits refer to a district’s sequential number. Since every state has at least one district in it, the district itself handles the registration of new vehicles. For this purpose, each district has its own Regional Transport Office (RTO), which is in-charge of the driver and vehicle registrations.
The third part of the license plate is a unique number which helps to identify the vehicle. If a number is unavailable then letters are used to replace the last digit. This ensures a surplus number of codes for all vehicles. It is often a common practice to buy custom numbers for a premium price.
The fourth and final part is an oval logo which reads, “IND”, the acronym for India; this oval also has a chromium hologram on top of it which resembles a “Chakra”. This is used in High-Security Registration Plates (HSRP). These are tamper-proof plates that were introduced in the year 2005 with an intention to reduce vehicle theft. Though it is mandatory for all motor vehicles to have these, certain states are yet to adopt the practice.
All these unique codes come together to give your vehicle a unique identification.
Every time a buyer purchases a new vehicle, the dealer issues a TR sticker. TR refers to ‘To Register’. It is a temporary number which is valid only for a period of one month. Within this period, the owner must visit the district’s RTO to officially register the vehicle and get a standard license plate. The motor vehicle inspector at the RTO office is responsible for the verification. During this period when your motor vehicle is yet to be registered, you cannot drive your vehicle on the road. It may be subjected to hefty fines.
The process of registration includes verification of the vehicle purchased, your address etc. Before the registration is complete, the RTO inspector also checks the details such as the engine and chassis numbers. It is a must to carry all the important documents like PUC, driving license, sales invoice, etc. while getting the vehicle registered. In the case of commercial vehicles, documents such as a roadworthiness certificate and transportation permit are also required.
In order to make your vehicle stand out, you can opt for a custom number too. An example of this would be, codes such as 3333 or 6666. It is difficult to purchase a singular number, such as 7, particularly because numbers below 100 are commonly registered to government vehicles. These special ‘lucky numbers’ are often available for sale. The pricing for such a unique number can go as high as Rs. 3 lakh, and it is often a common practice for RTOs to hold an auction for them in certain states. You could check the details on an auction of such numbers on your state RTO’s website.
Ensure that the font you opt for the vehicle registration plate is visible from a distance. Any discrepancy might get you in trouble with the traffic police. Using fancy fonts, which are unreadable or create a confusion in reading numbers and alphabets is an offence. Using clear bold lettering is advised.
Certain states opt for a unique format, where the first 0 of the district court is omitted and replaced with a category letter. This refers to the category of the vehicle.
C for cars & SUVs
S for two-wheelers
E for electric vehicles
P for passenger vehicles, i.e. buses
R for three-wheeler rickshaws,
T for tourist licensed vehicles,
V for vans and pick-up trucks
Y for vehicles for hire.
Some vehicles have different color combinations for number plates. They could be white, yellow, blue and black color plates. Each color signifies a specific purpose.
A white number plate with black text refers to a private vehicle. This vehicle cannot be used for commercial purposes.
A yellow number plate with black text is assigned to commercial vehicles such as taxis and trucks. The truck/taxi driver requires an official permit in order to drive a commercial vehicle.
A blue number plate is given to a vehicle which is being used by foreign delegates, these have white text instead of black. It is criteria for them to show the country code, which replaces the state code.
Black number plates with yellow text are commercial vehicles which have a private owner but have been rented out for commercial purposes. In such a case a commercial driving permit is not mandatory.
Red is used for vehicles which seats the President of India and various State Governors. Such a vehicle replaces the license number with the Emblem of India, embossed in gold.
A military vehicle follows a unique system of its own, it uses a broad arrow as a prefix for the number, and replaces a state code with digits resembling the year in which the vehicle was procured. These vehicles are registered with the Ministry of Defence, New Delhi.