Separate Licence for Transport Vehicles | Day 6: Union Submits a note on the proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act

Validity of ‘Light Motor Vehicle’ Licence to Drive ‘Transport Vehicle’

Judges: D.Y. Chandrachud CJI, P.S. Narasimha J, Hrishikesh Roy J, Manoj Misra J, Pankaj Mithal J

Today Attorney General R. Venkataramani placed on record a note on the consultative process undertaken between the Union and all the stakeholders in the case. In the last hearing held in November the Court had directed the Union to submit a complete roadmap for amendments before the court by January. The consultation was with various stakeholders, including insurance companies, State government and Union Territories to determine the consequences of interpreting the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (MVA) as per Mukund Dewangan v Oriental Insurance Company Limited (2017). 

Venkataramani also submitted a letter from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways with proposed amendments to the MVA. Broadly, the amendment states that transport and non-transport vehicles must be categorised within the Light Motor Vehicle category. Justice Hrishikesh Roy stated that though they were aware that the elections were underway, the Court was expecting substantial engagement from the Union and not just a note on the proposed amendments. 


In Mukund Dewangan v Oriental Insurance Company Limited, (2017) the Supreme Court was asked to decide if ‘unladen’ transport vehicles under Sec. 10(2)(e) which are less than 7500 kg would be considered a light motor vehicle under Sec. 10(2)(d). That is, would a person holding a licence to drive a light motor vehicle need a separate licence to drive a transport vehicle which was less than 7500 kg before any goods were loaded on it? A three-judge bench held that “a transport vehicle and omnibus, the gross vehicle weight of either of which does not exceed 7500 kg would be a light motor vehicle. “

In March 2022, the appellants, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance argued that the Supreme Court erred in allowing holders of the light motor vehicle licence to drive a transport vehicle. They claimed that the MVA created starkly different rules for each. Provisions of the MVA and Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 (Motor Vehicles Rules)—which concerned age of eligibility for driver’s and learner’s licence, duration of validity of licence, required medical clearance and training—were distinct for the two categories of vehicles. 

On March 8th 2022, a three-judge bench of (then) Justice U.U. Lalit, S.R. Bhat and P.S. Narasimha referred the case to a larger bench to review the points omitted by the Court in Mukund Dewangan. The case was listed before a five-judge bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, and Justices Hrishikesh Roy, P.S. Narasimha, Pankaj Mithal and Manoj Misra.

Senior Advocate Jayant Bhushan, appearing for the appellants, pointed out that the Union had clarified that a driving licence shall entitle the holder to drive a vehicle specified as “transport vehicles” or non-transport vehicle. This means that the Union had divided Light Motor Vehicles with unladen weight of less than 7500 kg into two categories of LMV 1 and 2. All that the proposed amendment does is to make “it clearer than before” that one’s licence will indicate if the holder may drive a transport vehicle or not. This was the “same position as was there earlier,” he said. 

Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud stated that it is better to introduce the amendment as a first step, and then assess its implementation before delivering the judgement. This will allow the Court to see if the petitioners’ concerns are addressed by the law. Otherwise the impact of the amendment on the Constitution Bench judgement will be “moot”, he said. He also reminded the Attorney General to ensure that the Transport Ministry takes into account the concerns of existing licence holders and ensure them a “smooth transition” to the new regime. 

“The only issue is how long they will take,” Bhushan said. He reminded the Court that substantial hearings had already taken place in the case. The Court stated that the case will be heard again in the last half of July 2024, after the “newly constituted Parliament” convenes.