Can person possessing license for 'light motor vehicle' drive transport vehicle of same class? Supreme Court asks Centre to revisit law

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Considering the issue of livelihood involved in the present case wherein lakhs of drivers would be affected, the Supreme Court opined that these implications should have a consideration which could only be done by the government at a policy level

The Supreme Court today directed the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to revisit the law allowing a person holding a driving license for light motor vehicles (LMV) being entitled to drive a unladen transport vehicle upto 7,500 kg in weight.

Accordingly, a five-judge Constitution Bench has asked the government to complete the exercise by two months.

"It is necessary for this court to have a re-look of the matter by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways..In view of the far-reaching implications that may arise, we hold that matter needs to be taken up at policy level, and this constitution bench will continue once we have heard back from the government..We request the Union to wrap up the exercise by two months..", the bench has ordered.

When the matter was taken up today by a bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud along with Justices Hrishikesh Roy, PS Narasimha, Pankaj Mithal and Manoj Misra, the CJI observed that the issue before court was not a constitutional one but a purely statutory issue.

Referring to the 2017 judgment of Mukund Dewangan vs. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd wherein it was held that transport vehicles, the gross weight of which did not exceed 7,500 kg, were not excluded from the definition of LMV, the bench said,

"If the Dewangan judgment is felt to be incorrect, government can bring in an amendment..lakhs of drivers across the country may be working on basis of this judgment..This is not just a question of law, but also social impact of law. Road safety has to be balanced with the social purpose of the law and you have to see if this causes serious hardships. We cannot decide issues of social policy in a Constitution Bench... This has to be done at a policy level...It is better these issues are sorted by the government at the policy level rather than us deciding it in this Court..".

Moreover, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the constitution bench that there were talks at the ministerial level to have a re-look at the law laid down in Dewangan.

Notably, this question came to light and was referred to a Constitution Bench as there were some variations in the eligibility terms to get a license under the two categories of “light motor vehicle” and “transport vehicle of light motor vehicle class” as per different provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act.

Case Title: M/s Bajaj Alliance General Insurance Co Ltd vs. Rambha Devi & Ors