Supreme Court Urges Caution in Reversing 2017 Verdict on LMV Licenses for Transport Vehicles

Supreme Court Urges Caution in Reversing 2017 Verdict on LMV Licenses for Transport Vehicles
Supreme Court Urges Caution in Reversing 2017 Verdict on LMV Licenses for Transport Vehicles
Supreme Court Urges Caution in Reversing 2017 Verdict on LMV Licenses for Transport Vehicles
Supreme Court Urges Caution in Reversing 2017 Verdict on LMV Licenses for Transport Vehicles

Supreme Court Urges Caution in Reversing 2017 Verdict on LMV Licenses for Transport Vehicles

Supreme Court Urges Caution in Reversing 2017 Verdict on LMV Licenses for Transport Vehicles. Image/NDTV

In a significant development, a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court has advised the Indian government to carefully evaluate the “far-reaching implications” before reversing the 2017 verdict. This landmark decision allowed individuals with a license to drive light motor vehicles (LMV) to also operate transport vehicles weighing less than 7500kg. The bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, urged a holistic approach and emphasized the importance of considering livelihoods and the evolving landscape of the motor vehicle sector.

Social Sector Impact and Policy Balance

The bench pointed out that millions of people have been issued licenses under the 2017 decision, and any reversal could have profound social sector consequences. It highlighted the need for the government’s policy arm to carefully weigh the impact and suggested that the government could provide existing license holders with a specific time period to align with the modified law.

Holistic Perspective for Evolving Transportation Sector

Recognizing the rapidly changing nature of the transportation sector, including advancements like driverless cars, the bench stressed the importance of taking a holistic view. It acknowledged that India must keep pace with global developments and not rely solely on legalities. The government’s assessment should consider new infrastructure, emerging aggregator services in the commercial sector, and private transport arrangements.

Next Steps and Evaluation

The Supreme Court has granted the government the opportunity to conduct a comprehensive review of the matter, considering multiple aspects, including road safety and the potential impact on the transport sector. The government is expected to present the results of this evaluation by the next hearing, scheduled for November 22.

Background of the Case

The constitution bench is hearing 75 petitions filed by insurance companies against a 2017 three-judge bench verdict (Mukund Dewangan v Oriental Insurance). This verdict, issued in July 2017, ended the practice of having separate rules for granting licenses for driving private and commercial vehicles, as long as the unladen weight of the vehicle did not exceed 7500kg. Essentially, it allowed individuals with licenses for private vehicles to also drive cabs, taxis, or other buses with passengers, without needing additional endorsements from the transport department.

Insurance companies have raised concerns about road safety, as this ruling allowed autorickshaw drivers, for instance, to operate heavier vehicles like road rollers or school buses without the rigorous training and checks required for transport vehicle drivers.

Government’s Response

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Oriental Insurance, expressed agreement among government officials that the 2017 judgment requires reconsideration. He argued that failure to amend the present law could lead to unfit drivers operating transport vehicles, endangering thousands of lives. The Attorney General, R Venkatramani, clarified that the two administrative orders issued by the Centre to align with the 2017 verdict should not be treated as a “policy decision of the Government of India” and were open to withdrawal.

This case highlights the complex interplay between legal considerations, public safety, and the evolving landscape of the transportation sector in India.

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