Kerala High Court: A. Badharudeen, J., exonerated the insurance company, Bajaj Allianz from liability to pay compensation in a motor accident case. The Bench observed,
“In a three wheeler goods carriage, the driver could not have allowed anybody else to share his seat. No other person whether as a passenger or as a owner of the vehicle is supposed to share the seat of the driver.”
The instant appeal was filed by the insurer-Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co. Ltd with regard to a motor accident claim. The Insurance Company disputed liability and sought exoneration from liability raising contention that the injured was a gratuitous passenger in a goods vehicle viz., Goods Autorickshaw. Though the appellant sought exoneration, the Tribunal did not allow the same.
The facts of the case were that while the injured was travelling in a Bajaj Goods Autorickshaw along with construction goods to the work site by sitting near the driver of the vehicle and transporting the construction goods, he met with an accident when the said Autorickshaw suddenly turned by its driver. The injured had claimed Rs 1,50,000 as compensation.
The appellant contended that the injured was a gratuitous passenger of the goods vehicle and was travelling in the goods autorickshaw, sharing the seat of the driver where driver alone was permitted to travel.
Hence, the stand of the Tribunal giving the injured the status of a person accompanying the goods carried therein was unsustainable.
In National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Baljit Kaur, 2004 (1) KLT 938 (SC) = 2004 (2) SCC 1it was held that the term “any person” envisaged under S. 147(1)(b)(i) shall not include any gratuitous passenger, it was held that if the claimant had not been travelling in the vehicle as owner of the goods, he shall not be covered by the policy of insurance.
“No gratuitous passenger can be allowed to travel in a goods vehicle and not even the owner of the vehicle can share the seat of the driver in a goods autorickshaw.”
Hence, the Bench held that, if the claimant had not been travelling in the vehicle as owner of the goods, he shall not be covered by the policy of insurance. In other words, no other person whether a passenger or as a owner of the vehicle was supposed to share the seat of the driver and any such action would be violation of the policy conditions as the policy suggested that the seating capacity of the vehicle involved in the accident was one person and nobody was permitted to travel in the said Goods Autorickshaw, other than the driver.
Observing that the injured was accompanying the Goods Autorickshaw along with construction goods to the work site after sharing the seat of the driver and met with an accident during this course, the Bench allowed the contention raised by the appellant urging full exoneration is to be allowed and contra decision entered into by the Tribunal was stand set aside.
Resultantly, Insurance Company was held not liable to pay the amount and the liability was casted upon the owner of the vehicle. [Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co. Ltd v. Bheema, 2021 SCC OnLine Ker 4068, decided on 08-11-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For the Appellant: Adv Sri. Lal George
For the Claimant: Adv Sri. T.B.Shajimon