Chhattisgarh High Court: A Division Bench of P.R. Ramchandra Menon and Parth Prateem Sahu JJ., set aside the impugned order and fastened the liability for compensation on the insurance company.

The facts of the case are such that on 16-11-2008 at about 06:30 p.m. Respondent 1/ claimant was travelling on a motor cycle from village Urla to Kumhari along with his friends by name Dhanesh Ram Sahu and Punit Ram Sahu when a motor cycle (offending vehicle) dashed the motor cycle of claimant/ Respondent 1 and the claimant suffered grievous injuries. The accident was thereby and crime was registered for offences punishable under Section 279, 337 and 338 of IPC. An application was filed under Section 166 of the Act of 1988 before Sixth Additional Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, District Durg who granted compensation after deducting 50% of the amount towards contributory negligence while exonerating the Insurance Company from its liability, fastened liability upon the appellant/ driver-cum-owner of the offending vehicle to satisfy the award. Aggrieved by the same, instant appeal was filed under Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 challenging the impugned award.

The submissions made by the appellant (present appeal) in the claims petition relevant for the instant appeal are that the appellant was the driver-cum-owner of the offending vehicle. It was the claimant who was driving his vehicle rashly and negligently and dashed with his vehicle. The offending vehicle was insured with Non-applicant 2/Insurance Company, he was possessing valid and effective driving licence, hence the liability, if any, for payment of amount of compensation would be upon the Insurance Company. Insurance Company submitted reply to the claim application pleading therein that the owner of the offending vehicle has not produced the registration certificate of the offending vehicle. Offending vehicle was insured in the name of Yashwant Kumar Verma. Copy of the licence has not been placed on record, thereby, there was breach of conditions of Insurance Policy and in such a situation, Insurance company is not having any liability to satisfy the amount of compensation. Claimant/ driver of the other motor cycle was not having the valid and effective driving licence.

Counsel for the appellants submitted that after dismissing the application under Order 8 Rule 1(3) CPC which is for producing the copy of licence held that there was breach of conditions of insurance policy as on the date of accident, the appellant was not possessed with valid and effective driving licence which is not correct in view of the copy of licence placed on record by the appellant before the Claims Tribunal.

Cousnel for the respondents submitted that the appellant has not placed on record the driving licence before the Claims Tribunal which he was possessing on the date of accident within time.

The Court observed that licence issued in the name of appellant Yashwant Kumar Verma, authorising him to drive Light Motor Vehicle and Motor Cycle with Gear (MCwG) having its validity from 06-06-2006 to 05-06-2026 also mentioning that that the licence holder can drive Motor Cycle with Gear. Hence it was observed that upon verification the photocopy of licence produced along with the appeal, the licence was found to be a valid licence authorising him to drive Motor Cycle with Gear, apart from the Light Motor Vehicle, it is proved that, on the date of accident, Appellant was driving the vehicle with a valid and effective driving licence.

The Court further observed that “Once the copy of licence and the insurance policy is available on record which has not been rebutted by the Insurance Company, in the considered opinion of this Court, learned Claims Tribunal erred in not conducting proper enquiry as prescribed under Section 68 of the Act of 1988 and Rule 226 of the Chhattisgarh Motor Vehicles Rule, 1994.”

The Court after perusing the record placed held “where the copy of driving licence is already available on record of the Claims Tribunal but the Claims Tribunal has not considered the same and further the copy of licence placed on record along with this appeal has been verified by the Insurance Company to be a valid and effective driving licence authorising the appellant to drive Motor Cycle with Gear and Light Motor Vehicle, we set aside the finding recorded by the Claims Tribunal that there was breach of conditions of insurance policy on the ground of not having valid and effective driving licence.”

In view of the above, the appeal was allowed and impugned award was set aside.[Yashwant Verma v. Premchand Sahu, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 898, decided on 20-10-2020]

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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