SC seeks AG’s assistance in dealing with issue of regimes for grant of driving licence, their applicability

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought the assistance of Attorney General R Venkataramani in dealing with a legal question about whether a person holding a driving licence for light motor vehicle (LMV) is entitled to legally drive a transport vehicle of a particular weight.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud said knowing the position of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways will be necessary, after it was argued that the apex court’s 2017 verdict in the case of Mukund Dewangan versus Oriental Insurance Company Limited was accepted by the Centre and rules were amended to align them with the judgement.

In the Mukund Devangan case, a three-judge bench of the top court had held that transport vehicles, the gross weight of which do not exceed 7,500 kg, are not excluded from the definition of LMV.

The constitution bench, also comprising Justices Hrishikesh Roy, P S Narasimha, Pankaj Mithal and Manoj Misra, is dealing with a legal question which reads: “Whether a person holding a driving licence in respect of ‘light motor vehicle’ (LMV), could on the strength of that licence, be entitled to drive a ‘transport vehicle of light motor vehicle class’ having unladen weight not exceeding 7,500 kgs.”

On Thursday, the bench noted one of the principal submissions advanced before it is that the verdict in the Mukund Dewangan case was accepted by the union government with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways issuing notifications dated April 16, 2018 and March 31, 2021 as a result of which the rules were amended to bring them in conformity with the judgment of the apex court.”

“We are of the considered view that having regard to the above background, the position of the Union government in the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways would be necessary. We request the Attorney General for India to assist the court in the matter,” the bench said while posting the matter for further hearing on September 13.

On July 18, the constitution bench had commenced hearing as many as 76 petitions to deal with the legal question.

It had then heard the arguments of senior advocate Siddharth Dave, appearing for one of the petitioners, on alleged anomalies in the Motor Vehicle Act with regard to regimes for dealing with grant of driving licenses for different categories of vehicles.

The lead petition was filed by M/s Bajaj Alliance General Insurance Co Ltd.

The legal question has given rise to various disputes over payment of claims by insurance companies in accident cases involving transport vehicles being driven by those having licences to drive light motor vehicles (LMVs).

The Motor Vehicle Act provides for different regimes for grant of driving licences for different categories of vehicles.

The matter was referred to the larger bench on March 8, 2022 by a three-judge bench headed by Justice U U Lalit, since retired.

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It was said that certain provisions of the law were not noticed by the apex court in the Mukund Dewangan judgement and “the controversy in question needs to be revisited”.

“It is thus submitted that the provisions contemplate different regimes for those having licence to drive Light Motor Vehicles as against those licensed to drive Transport Vehicles,” the court had noted while referring the cases to the larger bench.

“We are prima facie of the view that in terms of the referral order, the controversy in question needs to be revisited. Sitting in a combination of Three Judges, we deem it appropriate to refer the matters to a larger bench of more than Three Judges as the Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India may deem appropriate to constitute,” the bench had said.

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