All motorised road vehicles in India are tagged with a registration or licence number. The Vehicle registration plate (commonly known as number plate) number is issued by the district-level Regional Transport Office (RTO) of respective states — the main authority on road matters. The number plates are placed in the front and back of the vehicle. By law, all plates are required to be in modern Hindu-Arabic numerals with Latin letters. The international vehicle registration code for India is IND.
- Private vehicles:
- Private vehicles, by default, have black lettering on a white background (e.g. ).
- Vehicles which run purely on electricity have white lettering on a green background (e.g. AP 21 BP 7331)
- Commercial vehicles:
- Commercial vehicles such as taxis, buses and trucks, by default, have black lettering on a yellow background (e.g. UP 19 D 0343).
- Vehicles available on rent for self-drive have yellow lettering on a black background (e.g. KA 08 J 9192).
- Vehicles which run purely on electricity have yellow lettering on a green background (e.g. MH 12 RN 1289)
- Vehicles belonging to foreign missions:
- Vehicles registered to an embassy or United Nations have white lettering on a light blue background (e.g. 199 CD 1 and 23 UN 1 respectively).
- Vehicles registered to a consulate have black lettering on a yellow background (e.g. 199 CC 999).
- Vehicles registered by Indian Armed Forces have white lettering starting with a Arrow on a black background (e.g. ↑03D 153874H).
- Unsold vehicles belonging to a vehicle manufacturer or a dealer have white lettering on a red background (e.g. HR 26 TC 7174).
- Sold vehicles awaiting a permanent registration have red lettering on a yellow background (e.g. TS 07 D TR 2020).
Permanent Registration's Format
The current format of the registration index consists of 4 parts, They are:
- The first two letters indicate the State or Union Territory to which the vehicle is registered.
- The next two digit numbers are the sequential number of a district. Due to heavy volume of vehicle registration, the numbers were given to the RTO offices of registration as well.
- The third part consists of one, two or three letters or no letters at all. This shows the ongoing series of an RTO (Also as a counter of the number of vehicles registered) and/or vehicle classification
- The fourth part is a number from 1 to 9999, unique to each plate. A letter is prefixed when the 4 digit number runs out and then two letters and so on.
This scheme of numbering has some advantages:
- The State or District of registration of a particular vehicle.
- In the case of a police investigation of an accident or vehicle-related crime, witnesses usually remember the initial area code letters - it is then quite simple to narrow down suspect vehicles to a much smaller number by checking the database without having to know the full number.
Exclusion of some Letters in RTO series
- Letters such as O and I are not used in RTO series in order to avoid confusion with digits 0 or 1
In some states (such as the state of Delhi, and previously in Gujarat and Bihar) the initial 0 of the district code is omitted; thus Delhi district 2 numbers appear as DL 2 not DL 02.
The union territory of Delhi has an additional code in the registration code: DL 9 CAA 1111 where DL is the two letter code for Delhi (DL). The additional C (for category of vehicle) is the letter S for two-wheelers, C for cars and SUVs, E for electric vehicles (in some cases only), P for public passenger vehicles such as buses, R for three-wheeled rickshaws, T for tourist-licensed vehicles and taxis, V for pick-up trucks and vans and Y for hire vehicles. This system is also applicable in other states. (For example, Rajasthan, where RJ is the two letter code, P is for passenger vehicles, C for cars, S for scooters and G for goods vehicles.) Also, A for Ambulance, M for Milk Van, P for Police
All Indian states and Union Territories have their own two-letter code. This two-letter referencing came into action in the 1980s. Before that each district or Regional Transport Officer's office had a three-letter code which did not mention the state. This led to a fair degree of confusion — for example, MMC 8259 could fit in anywhere in the country. To avoid this ambiguity the state code was included along with the district or RTO's office. In some states, such as Maharashtra, licence plates before 1960, when the state was known as Bombay Presidency, bear notations such as BMC.
The newly created states of Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Telangana (from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh respectively), are registering vehicles under their new two-letter codes, while the old numbers registered in the RTO offices of these states under the RTO code of the parent state still stay valid. In 2007, the state of Uttaranchal was renamed as Uttarakhand, thus the state code changed from UA to UK. In 2011, the state of Orissa was renamed as Odisha, thus the state code changed from OR to OD.
The Government of India, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the nodal ministry, has formulated strict specifications and enforcement rules for the new High Security Registration Plates (new number plates). The states have recently started introducing them in a phased manner. This standardisation, along with strict enforcement, is expected to bring about a change in law enforcement and in the registration process of vehicles in the country.
The list of two-lettered state codes and Union Territory codes is as follows:
|State or Union Territory||Code|
|Andaman and Nicobar Islands||AN|
Used for nationwide vehicle registration
|Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu||DD|
|Jammu and Kashmir||JK|
List of codes no longer in use:
|Code||State or Union Territory|
|DN||Dadra and Nagar Haveli|
E.g. AP 04, AP 30 Kadapa And Srikakulam RTO in Andhra Pradesh.
Since all the states have two or more districts, the district is given the charge of registering the vehicle. A vehicle bears the registration of the district in which it is bought rather than the district of residence of the owner. In many states, officials insist that the plates be changed to the local numbers if the owner shifts residence.
The number of districts in the state need not equal the number of permutations of the district field of the licence plate. Often, in large cities the geographical district can be split into two or more administered regions, each governed by an RTO. A case is Bengaluru which has the plate bearings KA01, KA02, KA03, KA04, KA05, KA41, KA50, KA51, KA53, KA59.
Also the 01 digit may reflect the capital district of the state, though it may not always be the case.
In some states such as West Bengal, each RTO issues two numbers, one for commercial vehicles and another for private vehicles. E.g. Asansol, has the numbers WB 38 for private vehicles and WB 37 for commercial or public ones.
The last four digits numbers are unique to the vehicle. Usually, the lower 100 numbers are government registered numbers, but it may not always be the case. Special "lucky" numbers (also called fancy numbers) such as 3333 or 6666 fetch a premium and may touch above ₹1,00,000.
Prior to 2005, Karnataka used to charge ₹1000 for obtaining a unique last four digit number. These numbers used to be issued either from the current running series or from one or two future series. When the numbering system was computerized numbers could be issued from any future series. However the Karnataka RTO steeply hiked these charges to ₹6,000 if the number to be obtained is in the current series, and ₹25,000 if it was to be issued from a future series. It was increased again in 2010 from ₹6,000 to ₹20,000, and from ₹25,000 to ₹75,000.
As of 2007, Maharashtra has increased the price of unique numbers to the range of ₹25,000 to ₹1,25,000. In 2012, Maharashtra increased the price from ₹1,25,000 to ₹2,00,000.
In Uttarakhand, number 0001 and 0786 has the highest charge of ₹50,000.
In Gujarat, RTO is charging ₹500 for 2-wheeler vehicles and ₹1,000 for 4-wheeler vehicles for chosen number plate, but the chosen number plate not be unique, Ex 4521, 6523, etc. For VIP number 1 (4-wheeler vehicle), RTO distribute an application form to bid for unique number plate which will be attached with amount of money. The highest payer of the amount will get the unique number like 1. Sometimes it takes ₹2,00,000 to ₹5,00,000 (maximum) for this type of number. Currently, Gujarat RTO has revised the amount for chosen number (not unique numbers like single, double digit), which is ₹1000 for 2-wheeler vehicles and ₹5000 for 4-wheeler vehicles.
In Andhra Pradesh the RTO Follows the Auction system for unique numbers. The highest bidder gets the number. Numbers like 0909 0999 0099 0009 are in high demand always and have a high premium and maximum bidders for the auction.
If all the 9999 numbers are used up, the RTO adds the letter A before the number space so that more numbers can be accommodated. In some states, the two letters also give the description of the make of the vehicle.
The letters may also reflect the subdivision of the district if the district is geographically large.
In Tamil Nadu, the letter G is reserved for Government (both the Union Government of India and State Governments) vehicles and the letter N is reserved for Government Transport Buses, while A to F, H to M and P to Z are for passenger vehicles of all kinds, including commercial vehicles. For e.g. TN 60 AG 3333 could be a government vehicle registered in Theni, whereas a TN 58 N 4006 could be a government Bus registered in Madurai District.
In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the letter Z is reserved for the State Road Transport (APSRTC)and TSRTC buses (AP**Z, TS**Z, and so on). The letter P (AP 18P, TS 9P, and so on;— Vijayawada RTO and Khairatabad RTO) is reserved for the state police vehicles.the letters T, U, V, W, X, Y is reserved for commercial ones, going on as TA, TB..., UA, UB... and so on whereas rest of the letters are reserved for private passenger vehicles of all kinds.
In Kerala, the number series KL 15 is reserved for the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses. For e.g. KL 15 3431 is an Ashok Leyland KSRTC bus with vehicle code TS-340. Otherwise, all registrations are common, even for commercial vehicles. Also, KL 01 (Thiruvananthapuram RTO) issues registrations for police vehicles around the state.
In Assam, AS 20 is reserved for government buses and AS 30 and AS 31 is reserved for Assam state police. To register commercial vehicles, the letter C is used and goes on like AC, BC, etc. For private vehicles of all kinds, registrations are common.
In West Bengal, there are different number codes for commercial vehicles and private vehicles. RTOs have assigned the letter T to some commercial vehicles, e.g. WB 04 TE, and so on. In areas like Alipur, Barasat, Barrackpore and Howrah, letters were assigned for different classes of vehicles for private vehicles. Now, the same letters are used for all types of vehicles. Kolkata's main RTO at Beltala (WB01, WB02, WB03 and WB04) also has separate RTO number codes for two wheelers and private cars, as well as goods and passenger vehicles
In Odisha, all registrations are common, even for commercial vehicles. Bhubaneswar has two registration numbers OD 02 and OD 33. The OD 02 is used for RTO jurisdiction of Old Bhubaneswar and OD 33 is used for RTO jurisdiction of Patia, Bhubaneswar.
In Jammu and Kashmir, all registrations are common, even for commercial vehicles. However, the letter Y is used for all government buses.
In Punjab, all registrations are common, even for commercial vehicles. PB 01 is used to register tourist vehicles.
In Bihar, all RTO's assigns the letter P for passenger vehicles (Commercial vehicles and SUVs) and G for goods vehicles, e.g. BR 01 PC 2433 is a BSRTC bus in Patna. However, for private vehicles, all registrations are common.
In Himachal Pradesh HP 01 and HP 02 are reserved for tourist vehicles and also the first letter of the district is used, e.g. HP 01 D refers to a taxi in Dharamshala. Otherwise, all registrations are common, even for commercial vehicles.
In Maharashtra, the two letters in each RTO is classified for a different kind of vehicle, e.g. MH 14 BT is assigned for MSRTC buses built in the bus building facility Pimpri, MH 02 CR is for commercial vehicles in Mumbai, MH 10 CJ is for two wheelers in Sangli, MH 04 GM is for cars in Thane, MH 12 JK is for special purpose vehicles in Pune and MH 47 D is for autorickshaws in North Mumbai. For e.g. after letter A letter B will be given after z letter AAwill be given and so on.
In Karnataka, blank, A, B, C, D is used for commercial vehicles; T for tractors and trailers; E, H, J, K, L, Q, R, S, U, V, W, X, Y for two wheelers; M, N, P, Z for private passenger vehicles. G is used for Government Vehicles and F is used for KSRTC/NWKRTC/NEKRTC/BMTC buses. Additional letters are added as each series is exhausted e.g. M, MA, F, FA and so on.
In Madhya Pradesh the numbering system is similar to other states, with a few exceptions: MP 01 and MP 02 are reserved for the state government, while MP 03 is reserved for the police. Other vehicles are registered in RTOs starting from MP 04. In Madhya Pradesh vehicles used in agricultural purpose are numbered with series A (e.g. AA, AB, AC etc.), big cars by B, small cars by C, special purpose vehicle such as ambulance, crane etc. by D, medium size goods vehicle by G, heavy vehicles by H, small loading vehicle by L, motor cycles by M, passenger buses by P, passenger auto by R, Scooter by S, taxis by T and passengers by E, F, I, J, K, N, Q, U to Z.
When a series is exhausted or reaches MZ, the RTO can start any other series. For example, Bhopal adopted AM, DM, EM following M while Indore started NA, NB, NC, and now series Q is running. This allocation is similar in Chhattisgarh also.
In Goa, the letter X is reserved for the State Road Transport (Kadamba Transport Corporation) buses (e.g. GA 03 X 0109). The letters T, U, V, W, Y, Z are reserved for commercial vehicles, whereas the letter G is reserved for government vehicles. Again, the two letter in each RTO is classified for a different kind of vehicle, e.g. GA 07 C is for cars in Panaji and GA 03 AB is for two wheelers in Mapusa.
In Uttar Pradesh, all registrations are common for private vehicles. Districts use G for government vehicles and any letter for commercial. Currently most districts use T, AT, BT, etc.; some use N, AN, BN, etc., and a few use B, H, etc.
In Uttarakhand, the letter C is reserved for goods vehicles, T for Taxis, P for public transport vehicles and G for government vehicles and A, B, D to O, Q to S, and U to Z for private passenger vehicles of all kinds, with an additional letter added later such as TA, CA, GA, PA and so on.
For example, the official vehicle of the state Home Secretary uses the number "UK 07 GF 9999" and that of the Director General (Information and Public Relations) uses the number "UK 07 GE 9000". The vehicle of the Chairman of the State Sugar Corporation has the number "UK 07 GE 0900".
The registration number of the official vehicle of the now ousted Chief Minister read "UK 07 GB 0999".
Further, UK 07 TA 0251 could be a taxi in Dehradun and UK 07 PA 0250 could be a local bus in Dehradun.
In the North East excluding Assam:
- Meghalaya issues ML 01, ML 02, ML 03 for government vehicles, while ML 02 specifically for the Police department and ML 03 for the transport department, and registration is common for all vehicles.
- Sikkim issues the letter P as prefix for all types of private vehicles and T for taxis, J for commercial jeeps, B for buses, and Z, D for other commercial vehicles. For state transport buses, the SK 04 XXXX series of Jorethang was used and have now gone back to register them under B series.
- Arunachal Pradesh issues AR 02 for its government buses, otherwise all registrations are common, even for commercial vehicles.
- Nagaland issues different letters for all types of vehicles.
- In Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur, all registrations are common, even for commercial vehicles.
In Gujarat, government vehicles have number plate with letter G and GJ, which is reserved for government firm vehicles. (e.g. : GJ 18 G 5123 and GJ 18 GJ 6521). All other letters except G are used by passenger vehicles. The letters T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z are reserved for commercial vehicles and goes on in the series AT, AU, ..., BT, BU, ..., and so on.
Also, the number series GJ 18 Y is reserved for the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) buses (e.g. GJ 18 Y 5432). GJ 18 V was used earlier. After the completion of this series GJ 18 Y was used (e.g. GJ 18 V 8844). Currently, GJ 18 Z is in use. All other letters used for passengers. Also a letter is prefixed for usage in all classes of vehicles, e.g. GJ 01 J to JS are for two wheelers in Ahmedabad, and GJ 01 R to RZ are reserved for private four wheelers in Ahmedabad. However, after the exhaustion of private series in Ahmedabad, vehicles are being registered with the T to Z suffix pattern to meet the demand.
In Delhi, the following letters are used for registration- A for ambulances, B for mini buses, C for cars, F for numbers on demand for private vehicles, G for trucks, K for school vehicles, L for trucks, N for NRIs (e.g. DL 3C NA, DL 2S ND), P is for buses, Q are for commercial three wheelers, R for autorickshaws and radio taxis, S for two wheelers, T for city taxis, Y for private taxis, V, W, E, U, M, Z for other commercial vehicles. DL 1 at Mall Road registers only A, E, G, K, L, M, P, Q, R, T, U, V, W, Y and Z.
In Chandigarh, the following letters are used for registration: T is for trucks, G is for government vehicles. CH 02 registers commercial vehicles. Registration for all private vehicles is common.
In Rajasthan, the following letters are used for registration: M, S, B for two wheelers, C for cars, P for buses, G for trucks, T for taxis and tourist passenger vehicles. Earlier, numbers between 1 and 50 were used, e.g. RJ 14 2M and RJ 14 6C were used for vehicles but now this system has been stopped.
In Haryana, there are different codes for commercial vehicles and different for private vehicles. Private registrations are common.
On June 1, 2005, the Government of India had amended rule 50 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, mandating introduction of new tamper proof High Security Registration (HSRP) number plates. All new motorised road vehicles that came into the market after that needed to adhere to the new plates, while existing vehicles had been given two years to comply. Features incorporated include the number plate having a patented chromium hologram, a laser numbering containing the alpha-numeric identification of both the testing agency and manufacturers and a retro-reflective film bearing a verification inscription "India" at a 45-degree inclination. The characters are embossed on the plate for better visibility. The letters "IND" were printed in a light shade of blue on the observers left side under the hologram. However it has yet to be implemented since the various state Governments has not yet appointed an official source for manufacture of these plates, due to disputes which are currently in various Indian courts. On 8 April 2011 the Supreme Court of India summoned the transport secretaries of Delhi, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh for contempt of court proceedings regarding nonenforcement of the high-security registration plates. The Supreme Court on 30 November 2004, had clarified that all states had to comply with the scheme. Currently all of North East including Assam, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Karnataka, Andaman & Nicobar Islands (UT) and Goa are the only states which have complied in full. The states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra have not proceeded after having called tenders. Besides these states some of the other states have also taken action to implement the new scheme.
Haryana and Punjab has launched the High Security Registration Plates Scheme in the state. High Security Registration Plates have been made mandatory in for all new and old vehicles.
Maharashtra announced that it had planned to implement new number plates soon.
Military vehicles have a unique numbering system unlike any other licence numbers. The numbers are registered by the Ministry of Defence in New Delhi. The first (or the third) character is an upward-pointing arrow. This is known as a Broad Arrow, whose origins lie in the UK Office of Ordnance and is still used in many parts of the British Commonwealth on assorted army items, not just vehicles. The next two digits (or the two succeeding the arrow) signify the year in which the Military procured the vehicle. The next is the base code, followed by the serial number. The letter ending after the serial number indicates the class of the vehicle (e.g. ↑10A266162W).
Vehicle belonging to foreign missions bear the plates UN, CD or CC, which stand for United Nations, Diplomatic Corps or Consular Corps respectively. A diplomatic plate numbered 13 CC xxxx would refer to country 13, probably a country close to the letter A or B. For example, a vehicle bearing the number 77 CD xxxx in India refers to a vehicle owned by either the United States mission in India or by a person working with the mission.
Cars bearing UN, CD or CC licence plates are granted the level of diplomatic immunity or consular immunity corresponding to whom the vehicle has been attributed to by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. Immunity is void if a UN, CD or CC licence-plated vehicle is driven by a chauffeur or non-diplomat in an absence of an accredited member of the diplomatic or consular corps.
Table of codes (applies to CC and CD only, incomplete):
Other numbering include the special numbers allotted to public transportation such as buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws. The numbers are registered by the organization which run the services and are usually printed on the side of the vehicle. This mechanism is used for unique identification.
As soon as a vehicle is purchased, the dealer of the vehicle issues a temporary licence sticker known colloquially as a TR (To Register) number. In Maharashtra (TC test certificate no.is given). This is valid for one month, during which the owner must register the vehicle in the controlling RTO of the area in which the owner is residing to get a standard licence plate. Some states like Tamil Nadu do not allow vehicles with TR numbers on the road, the dealer will hand over the vehicle to the purchaser only after the registration process is done. To register a vehicle, it has to be presented to the RTO's office, where a Motor Vehicle Inspector will verify the applicant's address and other details, confirm that the engine and chassis numbers are identical to what is written in the application and issues a permanent registration certificate which is usually valid for 20 years. The permanent registration certificate is one of the four important documents a vehicle plying on the road should always have; the others being a valid insurance certificate, a pollution under control (PUC) certificate and the driver's licence. For public utility vehicles like buses, trucks, taxis and pick-up vans, there are a number of additional documents like a road-worthiness certificate and a transportation permit.
Between 1902 and 2009, all plates were owner provided; since 2009, plates are officially issued, however previous registrations are still valid.
Before 1939, only one letter with four numbers were issued (e.g. N 7612).
From 1939 until 1947, two letters and four numbers scheme were issued (e.g. KA 9823).
From 1947 until the late 1980s (June 30, 1989), the Indian licence plate system followed the scheme:
Where B was the state code (e.g. C for Karnataka since K was allotted to Kerala); MU were letters of the specific RTO; and 7711 was the unique licence plate number. Older vehicles still exhibit this legally valid numbering scheme.
In Portuguese Goa, which was annexed by India in 1961, the scheme was Ixx-99-99 (before 1937 I-99999), second letters and third letters reserved by district.
When Madhya Pradesh was known as Central Province (then using code C), all vehicle licence plates began with:
- CPZ — For All Government vehicles
- CPP — Central Province Police
- CPX — where "X" represented the district code (for example, vehicles registered in Jabalpur had a registration plate starting with CPJ)
When renamed to Madhya Pradesh, then using code M:
- MPZ — For all Government vehicles
- MPP — Madhya Pradesh Police
- MPX — where "X" represented the district (for example, vehicles registered in Jabalpur had a registration plate starting with MPJ)
In the early 2000s, the number plate colouring scheme changed from white over black (BMU 7711) to black over white (BMU 7711) for private non-commercial vehicles, and from black over white (BMU 7711) to black over yellow (BMU 7711) for all other vehicles. The usage of the older colour scheme was made illegal after a period during which both styles were tolerated.
The President of India and The Governors of Indian States used to travel in official cars without licence plates. Instead they had the Emblem of India in gold embossed on a red plate. But now they also have ordinary licence plates.
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