The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh recently ruled that any person who holds a driving license authorizing him to drive a particular type of commercial vehicle would automatically be eligible to drive any other type of commercial vehicle [New India Insurance C. Ltd. v. Jagjeet Singh & Ors.]
Thus, a driver holding a driving license to drive a heavy goods vehicle would be competent to drive a passenger carrying vehicle, single-judge Justice Sanjay Dhar held.
“Any person who was holding a driving license authorizes him to drive a particular type of commercial vehicle would automatically be eligible to drive any other type of commercial vehicle, meaning thereby that a driver holding a driving license to drive a heavy goods vehicle would be competent to drive a passenger carrying vehicle,” the order said.
The Court was hearing an appeal filed by an insurance company against an award passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT) at Kathua in November 2008.
The MACT had passed the award on a claim petition that sought compensation for the death of one Tejinder Singh, who was hit by a bus allegedly driven rashly and negligently by its driver when he was on his motorcycle in 2002.
The bus in question was insured with the appellant-insurance company at the relevant time.
Subsequently, the tribunal passed an award and directed the insurance company to pay compensation of ₹2.62 lakh to the respondents who were legal heirs of the deceased Tejinder Singh.
Feeling aggrieved, the insurance company moved the present appeal challenging the award in the High Court on the ground that the driver of the offending vehicle was not holding a valid and effective driving license at the time of the accident.
The counsel for the insurance company submitted before the High Court that the offending vehicle was a passenger-carrying bus, whereas its driver was holding a driving license that authorized him to drive heavy goods vehicle only.
Since there was no endorsement on the driving license authorising him to drive a public service vehicle in terms of Rules 4 of the Jammu and Kashmir Motor Vehicle Rules, the driver was not holding a valid and effective driving license, the appellant said.
Reliance was placed on the judgment in ‘National Insurance Company Lts v. Bashir Ahmed Chopan & Ors., in which the High Court itself had held that a driver holding a driving license entitling him to drive a heavy goods vehicle is not competent to drive a passenger- carrying vehicle unless there is a PSV (public service vehicle) endorsement.
The High Court said that the question that it needs to answer in this case was “whether a a driver holding a license to drive a heavy goods vehicle is eligible to drive a passenger-carrying vehicle.”
After referring to the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act of 1988, the Court observed that a passenger-carrying vehicle falls within the definition of ‘transport vehicle’ as contained in Section 2(47) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
The Court said that the amended clause (e) of Section 10(2) of the Motor Vehicle Act has replaced all types of commercial vehicles in ‘transport vehicles’, which includes goods vehicles as well as passenger-carrying vehicles.
Therefore, any person holding a driving license which authorizes him to drive a particular type of commercial vehicle would automatically be eligible to drive any other type of commercial vehicle including passenger carrying vehicle, the Court concluded.
Hence, it can be safely stated that the driving license held by driver was valid and effective license authorising him to drive the offending vehicle, the Court said.
Further, the Court opined that the ratio laid down in the judgment referred by appellant, that is the one in National Insurance Company Lts v. Bashir Ahmed Chopan & Ors., is per incuriam (in ignorance of law). The Court said that it is not a binding precedent because it seems that the amended provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act were not brought to the notice of the Court at the time of passing of that judgment.
Even otherwise, the referred judgment had been passed without taking note of the binding precedent delivered by a division bench of the Court in ‘National Insurance Co. Ltd v. Mohd Sadiq Kuchay & Ors. in which it was held that a PSV endorsement in accordance with the Jammu and Kashmir Motor Vehicle Rules is not necessary and that if a driver is competent to drive a particular class of transport vehicle, he is competent to drive any other class of transport vehicle, the Court said.
Accordingly, the appeal filed by Insurance company against the award granted by the MACT was dismissed by the High Court
The appellant was represented by Advocate Udhay Bhaskar. The respondents were represented by Jatinder Choudhary.