Repudiation of insurance claim of overloaded bus, justified

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): While observing that huge overloading of vehicles adversely affects the steering control and increases the chance of driver to loose control of the vehicle which may cause accident, NCDRC upheld the repudiation of insurance claim of a bus on the ground of over loading. Earlier, an insured bus met with an accident resulting in the death of eight passengers but the insurance claim was repudiated by the Insurance Company on the ground that the bus was meant for carrying 35 passengers whereas at the time of accident the said bus was carrying 77 passengers which was in violation of the permit granted by the Regional Transport Office. In the matter, District Forum allowed the complaint and found that the repudiation of claim was unjustified. However, State Commission came to the conclusion that the repudiation on the ground of over loading was justified. A revision petition was filed before NCDRC by the owner of the bus. The complainant contended before Commission that at the time of accident the bus was not overloaded as mentioned in FIR. The Commission heard both the parties and perusal the material on record, which included the copy of FIR and report of Tehsildar Keshkal, District Bastar. NCDRC observed that according to report of the Tehsildar after due enquiry financial aid was sanctioned which involved 56 persons who had suffered profound injury or minor injury and as per the FIR, 8 persons were reported dead in the accident, meaning thereby minimum 64 passengers were travelling at the time of the accident. It was also observed by the Commission that numbers of passengers were converted from 65 to 25 by over writing in FIR. While upholding the repudiation of claim by the Insurance Company, NCDRC noted, “In the light of the aforesaid facts, this is clear that as against the sanction of carrying 35 passengers in the permit, the bus was carrying almost the double the passengers including adults and children. Such a huge overloading obviously adversely affects the steering control and increases the chance of driver losing the control of the vehicle which may result in accident as in the case. Thus, we do not find any material irregularity or jurisdictional error warranting interference in exercise of revisional jurisdiction.” The Commission also imposed a penal cost of Rs.50,000 upon the complainant for abusing the process of law as it was clear that the copy of FIR was forged as regards number of passengers, either by the petitioner himself or in connivance with the police authorities. Petitioner was asked to deposit the cost with the Consumer Legal Aid Account, NCDRC within four weeks. [Dubey Travels v. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., 2016 SCC OnLine NCDRC 197, decided on April 8, 2016]

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