Vehicle registration plates of India

Vehicle registration plates of India

All motorised road vehicles are tagged with a licence number in India. The licence plate (commonly known as number plates) number is issued by the district-level Regional Transport Office (RTO) of respective states - the main authority on road matters. The licence plates are placed in the front and back of the vehicle. By law, all plates are based on modern Arabic numerals with Roman alphabet, though many states violate this by writing the numerals in the local script. Other guidelines include having the plate lit up at night and the restriction of the fonts that could be used. In some states such as Sikkim, cars bearing outside plates are barred from entering restricted areas. Plates for private car and two-wheeler owners have a white background with black lettering (e.g., KA 01 EK 171). Commercial vehicles such as taxis and trucks have a yellow background and black text (e.g., DL 2C 6011). Vehicles belonging to foreign consulates have white lettering on a light blue background (e.g., 11 CD 21). The President of India and state governors travel in official cars without licence plates. Instead they have the Emblem of India in gold embossed on a red plate.

Since June 1, 2005, the Government of India has introduced High Security Registration (HSR) number plates which are tamper proof. All new motorised road vehicles that come into the market have to adhere to the new plates, while existing vehicles have 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 numbers would be embossed on the plate, rather than being painted for better visibility. The term "India" is to be in a light shade of blue.


Format of the registration is as shown below
AA 11 BB 1111
Where AA is the two letter state code; 11 is the two digit district code; 1111 is the unique licence plate number and BB are the optional alphabets if the 9999 numbers are used up. An example would be:

MH 01 CA 1002

The first two alphabets MH indicate that the vehicle is from the state Maharashtra. The next two are the district (In this case the capital Mumbai). CA 1002 is the unique licence plate number. In some states (such as the union territory of Delhi) the initial 0 of the district code is omitted; thus Delhi district 2 numbers appear as DL 2 not DL 02.

The National Capital Territory of Delhi has an additional code in the registration code:
DL 11 C AA 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, '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. Thus a Delhi-specific example is:

DL 5 S AB 9876


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 without mentioning the state, which lead 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 or BDL.

The newly created states of Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand (from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar 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 to Uttarakhand, thus the state code changed from UA to UK.

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 phased manner. This standardisation along with strict enforcement is expected to bring about sea change in law enforcement and registration process of vehicles in the country.

The list of two-lettered state codes is as follows: The list and their codes in MS Excel format can be found [ here]


Since all states have a 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 the Mumbai Suburban district which has the plate bearings MH-02 and MH-03. 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. Eg. Kalimpong has the numbers WB-79 for private vehicles and WB-78 for commercial or public ones.

Some places like Ranchi or Dehradun have dual numbers because now they belong to a different state. Example Ranchi(Old no.)- BR 14K, Ranchi(New No.)- JH 01W, Dehradun(old no.)- UP 07L, Dehradun(new No.) - UA 07T. Similarly for Raipur the old and new numbers are MP 23 and CG 04

Unique numbering

The last four digits 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 such as 3333 or 6666 fetch a premium and may touch above rupees 10,000.

Unique alphabets

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. Eg. In Mumbai, MH-01 AA would point to a two-wheeler; where as MH-01 CA is a small car. MH-01 J **** and MH-01 X **** are taxis.

The alphabets 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.For eg. TN 69 G 3333 could be a government vehicle registered in Thoothukudi District, whereas aTN 72 N 2222 could be a government Bus registered in Tirunelveli District.

In Andhra Pradesh, the letter Z is reserved for the State Road Transport (APSRTC) buses (AP 10Z, AP11Z, AP28Z). The letter P (AP 9P - Khairatabad RTO) is reserved for the state police vehicles.

Karnataka started number series KA 11 AA 1111 from 1 January 1990. While issuing these numbers they reserved the "AA" for certain categories of vehicles. Numbers issued without AA eg KA 19 1111 was for commercial vehicles, E for two wheelers and P for cars. The alphabets G was reserved for Government vehicles, and F for KSRTC buses. The alphabets I, O, and Q where never issued. In all cases when the 9999 number was exhausted the next alphabet was reserved for that vehicle category. So A to D for commercial vehicles, F, H, J to L, R to Y for two wheelers M, N, P, Z for cars. Additional alphabets are added as mentioned earlier.

Prior to 2005 Karnataka used to charge Rs 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 computerised numbers could be issued from any future series. However the Karnataka RTO has now steeply hiked these charges to Rs 6000 if the number to be obtained is in the current series, and Rs 25,000 if it is to be issued from a future series.

Military vehicles

Military vehicles have a unique numbering system unlike any other licence numbers. The numbers are registered by the Ministry of Defence in New Delhi and appear to have a pseudo-random numbering. The first (or the third) character is always an arrow pointing upwards. The first two digits signify the year in which the Military procured the vehicle.

Diplomatic plates

Vehicle belonging to foreign missions bear the plates CD or CC, which stand for "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. As per international law cars bearing these license plates enjoy diplomatic immunity.

Other numbering

Other numbering include the special numbers allotted to public transportation such as buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws. The numbers are registered by the organisations which run the services and are usually printed on the side of the vehicle.

Temporary numbers

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. 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 certificate (PUC) and of course, the driver's license. 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.

Historical numbering

Until the late 1980s, the Indian license plate system followed the scheme
SAA 1111
Where S was the state code (e.g. C for Karnataka since K was allotted to Kerala); AA were alphabets; and 1111 was the unique licence plate number. Older vehicles still exhibit this legally valid numbering scheme.

In the early 2000s, the number plate colouring scheme changed from white over black (SAA 1111) to black over white (SAA 1111) for private non-commercial vehicles, and from black over white (SAA 1111) to black over yellow (SAA 1111) for all other vehicles. The usage of the older colour scheme was made illegal after a notice period.

ee also

* List of RTO districts in India
* List of Indian States

External links

* [ List of two-letter codes]
* [ Government of Tamil Nadu - State Transport Authority]
* [ Road Safety in India]
* [ Ministry of Road transport and Highways]

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