LMC licence holders to drive a transport vehicle up to 7,500 Kg: SC directs Central Government to review policy within two months

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Today, the Supreme Court was hearing a matter where the question of law is “Whether 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 kg?” While hearing the matter, the Constitution bench asked the Central Government to review its policy on whether a person is legally entitled to drive a transport vehicle up to 7,500 Kg in weight while holding a driving licence for light motor vehicles (LMV). The bench said that any interpretation of the law should be made after considering the safety of other users of public transport and roads. The matter was heard by a five-judge bench including Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Manoj Misra, Justice Hrishikesh Roy, Justice Pankaj Mithal, and Justice PS Narasimha

The bench ordered, “It would be necessary for this Court to have a fresh look at the matter by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways...Decision, in this case, must await policy considerations and if a change in the law is needed and to mull over the way ahead...we hold that the matter needs to be taken up at the policy level by the government and once the government informs its stand to the Court, the hearing in the Constitution Bench will thereafter be taken up. We request the Union to wrap up the exercise within 2 months and apprise the court. We have expressed nothing on the merits of the referral order.”

During the court proceedings, the top Court’s 2017 judgment in the Mukund Dewangan case was addressed which states that “the transport vehicles, the gross weight of which do not exceed 7,500 kg, are not excluded from the definition of LMV.” The same was accepted by the Central Government. The bench pointed out that “the decision in the Devangan case has held the field for 6 years and the impact of the reversal of this decision on the social sector would have to be placed in balance by the policy arm of the government, and any change in position of law as in Devangan would have an impact on ones who have taken insurance and who may be driving commercial vehicles along with LMV and large number must be dependent on this sector to earn their livelihood. All these concerns raise important issues of policy, and thus must be assessed by the Centre if a change in law is warranted.”

CJI also said “If you feel the Devangan judgment is wrong, then of course you can bring in an amendment to take away the basis, this will not cause hardships to existing compensation claims...This is not just a question of law, but also the 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.” After hearing the matter, the Constitution bench of the SC gave two months time to the Central Government to provide its view regarding the matter.