11 March 2022 10:11 AM GMT
A 3-judge Bench of the Supreme Court has referred to a larger bench the issue whether a person, on the strength of a driving licence for Light Motor Vehicles(LMV), can drive a Transport Vehicle having unladen weight below 7500 kilograms.A 3-judge Bench comprising Justice UU Lalit, Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha doubted the correctness of the decision given by a coordinate bench in the case...
A 3-judge Bench of the Supreme Court has referred to a larger bench the issue whether a person, on the strength of a driving licence for Light Motor Vehicles(LMV), can drive a Transport Vehicle having unladen weight below 7500 kilograms.
A 3-judge Bench comprising Justice UU Lalit, Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha doubted the correctness of the decision given by a coordinate bench in the case Mukund Dewangan v. Oriental Insurance Company Limited (2017) 14 SCC 663.
In Mukund Dewangan, a 3-judge Bench had held that a person holding a driving licence in respect of "light motor vehicle", could on the strength of that licence, be entitled to drive a "transport vehicle of light motor vehicle class" having unladen weight not exceeding 7500 kgs. A bench comprising Justice Amitava Roy, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul held in Mukund Dewangan that a separate endorsement in the LMV driving licence is not required to drive a transport vehicle having unladen weight below 7500 kilograms. The bench held in Mukund Dewangan as follows :
"A transport vehicle and omnibus, the gross vehicle weight of either of which does not exceed 7,500 kg would be a light motor vehicle and also motor car or tractor or a road roller, 'unladen weight' of which does not exceed 7,500 kg and holder of a driving licence to drive class of "light motor vehicle" as provided in section 10(2)(d) is competent to drive a transport vehicle or omnibus, the gross vehicle weight of which does not exceed 7,500 kg or a motor car or tractor or road-roller, the "unladen weight" of which does not exceed 7,500 kg".
On May 3, 2018, a two-judge Bench in the case Bajaj Alliance General Insurance v Rambha Devi doubted the correctness of Mukund Dewangan and referred the matter a 3-judge bench observing that the decision was rendered ignoring certain relevant provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act such as Section 4(1), Section 7, Section 14, Rule 5 and 31 of The Central Rules Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.
The referral order noted that Section 4 provides for different minimum age criteria for LMV and transport licences - 18 years for the former and 20 years for the latter.
Also, as per Section 7, a person should have held LMV driving licence for at least one year to seek learners license for transport vehicle.
Section 14 provides different periods for the validity of LMV and transport licences.
Rule 5 prescribes a medical certificate to apply for transport licence whereas in the case of LMV, only a self declaration is sufficient.
Rule 31, specifically sub-rules (2), (3) and (4) provide for a difference in the syllabus and duration of training between transport and non-transport vehicles.
The Bench took note of the submission that though Section 3 of the Motor Vehicles Act was quoted in the decision in Mukund Dewangan, the latter part of Section 3 and the effect thereof was not noticed by the Court.
The latter part of said Section 3 stipulates that "no person shall so drive a transport vehicle other than the motor cab or motor cycle hired for his own use or rented under any scheme made under any scheme made under sub-section (2) of Section 75 unless his driving licence specifically entitles him so to do.
Senior Counsels appearing for Insurance Companies also drew the attention of the three-judge Bench towards several other provisions including the second proviso to Section 15 and Sections 180 and 181 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
The Bench noted the submissions that the provisions contemplate different regimes for those having licence to drive Light Motor Vehicles as against those licensed to drive Transport Vehicles.
The 3-judge Bench observed that the referral order is right and that the issue needs to be re-visited.
"Having bestowed our attention to the contentions raised by the learned counsel and the issues which fall for consideration, in our view, the referral order was right in stating that certain provisions were not noticed by this Court in its decision in Mukund Dewangan (supra). We are prima facie of the view that in terms of the referral order, the controversy in question needs to be re- visited"
However, since Mukund Dewangan was also rendered by a 3-judge bench, the bench said that it is appropriate that a larger bench decides the matter.
"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 Court has therefore directed the Registry to place the Special leave petitions before the CJI to constitute a Bench of appropriate strength to consider all the issues.
Mr. Jayant Bhushan, Mr. Gopal Sankaranaryanan, Mr. Siddhartha Dave,Senior Advocates as well as Mr. Amit Singh, Ms. Archana Pathak Dave, Mr. Kaustubh Shukla, Ms. Meenakshi Midha and Mr. Rajesh Kumar Gupta, Advocates, appeared for the insurance companies in the matter.
The Bench recorded their statement that the compensation in terms of the directions issued by the Courts below following the principles laid down in Mukund Dewangan (supra) has either been paid in full or shall be paid in terms of such directions.
Case Title: Bajaj Alliance General Insurance v Rambha Devi & Ors, CA 841/2018
Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 270
Click here to read/download the order