Supreme Court: The Bench of N.V. Ramana and S. Abdul Nazeer, JJ. allowed an appeal filed by the appellant (insurer) against the judgment and order of Tripura High Court whereby the insurer was directed to pay compensation to the respondents (legal representatives of the deceased) as awarded by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, W.B.
On 20-5-2012, deceased Dilip Bhowmik was returning to his house driving his vehicle. Near the bridge of the Agartala Railway Station, he met with an accident and sustained grievous injuries. He was declared dead on arrival by the hospital. At the relevant time, the deceased was 43 years old. According to respondents, his monthly income was Rs 15,000. They filed a claim petition, pursuant to which the Tribunal passed an award granting compensation of Rs 10,57,800. Aggrieved by the same the insurer filed appeal before the High Court which accepted it’s contention that the deceased was not a third party. However, the High Court directed the insurer to pay the compensation with a rider that it should not be treated as a precedent. Aggrieved thus, the insurer preferred the present appeal.
The Supreme Court considered the submissions of the parties and perused the record. It was noted that it was an admitted position that the deceased was the owner-cum-driver of the vehicle in question. The accident occurred due to rash and negligent driving by the deceased. No other vehicle was involved in the accident. The deceased being the owner of the offending vehicle, was not a third party within the meaning of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. The Court referred to the decision in Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Jhuma Saha, (2007) 9 SCC 263 and observed that a claimant cannot maintain a claim on the basis of his own fault or rash and negligent driving. Therefore, the respondents being legal representatives of the deceased could not have maintained the claim petition filed under Section 166 of the Act. The Court held that the High Court was not justified in directing the insurer to pay compensation determined by the Tribunal. However, the respondents were held entitled to the indemnification extended to personal accident of the deceased which was limited to Rs 2 lakhs under the contract of insurance. The appeal was disposed of in the terms above. [National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Ashalata Bhowmik,2018 SCC OnLine SC 1264, dated 31-08-2018]