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Amrit Paul Singh and Ors. Vs. TATA AIG General Insurance Co. Ltd. and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (17 May 2018)

Use of a vehicle in a public place without a permit is a fundamental statutory infraction

MANU/SC/0582/2018

Motor Vehicles

The legal representatives of the deceased, preferred a claim petition before the Tribunal claiming compensation to the tune of Rs. 36,00,000. The claim petition was filed on basis that, on 19th February, 2013, deceased was travelling to Pathankot on his motor cycle and at that juncture, the offending truck bearing temporary registration belonging to the Appellant No. 2 driven in a rash and negligent manner hit the motor cycle of the deceased as a result of which he sustained multiple injuries, and eventually, succumbed to the same when being taken to the hospital.

The tribunal noted that, the vehicle was purchased in September 2012 and insured on 20th December, 2012. It was registered on 26th December, 2013. The accident occurred on 19th February, 2013. The Tribunal, placing reliance on the decision rendered by present Court in National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Challa Bharathamma and Ors., held that, the insurer was not liable and proceeded to quantify the amount of compensation and determined the same at Rs. 15,63,120. The tribunal directed the amount to be paid by the insurer along with interest at the rate of 9% from the date of award till its realisation and recover the same from the owner and driver of the vehicle. A further direction was given for attachment of the truck in question till the award was satisfied. The award passed by the tribunal was confirmed by the High Court.

In present case, the findings would show that, the Appellant No. 2 did not have a permit for the vehicle. There is no dispute that, the vehicle initially had a temporary registration and eventually the permanent registration. A distinction has to be made between "route permit" and "permit" in the context of Section 149 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. Section 149(2) of the Act, provides the grounds that can be taken as defence by the insurer. It enables the insurer to defend on the ground that, there has been breach of a specific condition of the policy, namely, (i) a condition that excludes the use of the vehicle,-(a) for hire or reward, where the vehicle is, on the date of the contract of insurance, a vehicle not covered by a permit to ply for hire or reward, or (b) for organized racing and speed testing, or (c) for a purpose not allowed by the permit under which the vehicle is used, where the vehicle is a transport vehicle, or (d) without side-car being attached where the vehicle is a motor cycle. That apart, it also entitles the insurer to raise the issue pertaining to a condition that excludes driving by a named person or persons or by any person who is not duly licensed or by any person who has been disqualified for holding or obtaining a driving licence during the period of disqualification or that excludes liability for injury caused or contributed to by conditions of war, civil war, riot or civil commotion. A further defence that can be availed of by the insurer is that the policy is void on the ground that, it has been obtained by non-disclosure of the material fact or by representation of act which is false in the material particular.

From the written statement filed by the owner and the driver, it is evident that, the factum of accident having been caused by the vehicle in question had been denied. That apart, there is also a denial of liability that, relates to the manner in which the accident had occurred as alleged in the claim petition. It was the specific assertion of the insurer before the Tribunal that, the vehicle was running in contravention of the provisions of the Act, for it did not possess a route permit.

In present case, it is clearly demonstrable from the materials brought on record that, the vehicle at the time of the accident did not have a permit. The insurer had taken the plea that, the vehicle in question had no permit. Use of a vehicle in a public place without a permit is a fundamental statutory infraction. It does not require the wisdom of the "Tripitaka", that the existence of a permit of any nature is a matter of documentary evidence. Nothing has been brought on record by the insured to prove that, he had a permit of the vehicle. In such a situation, the onus cannot be cast on the insurer. Therefore, the Tribunal as well as the High Court had directed the insurer was required to pay the compensation amount to the claimants with interest with the stipulation that, the insurer shall be entitled to recover the same from the owner and the driver. Appeal dismissed.

Tags : AWARD   COMPENSATION   LIABILITY  

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