Jharkhand High Court: In an appeal against judgment passed by the Additional District and Sessions Judge-cum-Motor Vehicle Claims Tribunal Judge dismissing the claim for compensation under Section 166 of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, Ananda Sen, J. directed the truck owner to compensate the gratuitous passenger and held that the insurance company was not liable as per facts of the case.
According to the facts, the claimant was travelling by truck on 13-06-1996 and some miscreants tried to stop the vehicle, but the driver did not stop the truck and tried to flee at high speed. The miscreants hurled a bomb on the truck which blasted on its front windscreen causing grievous injuries on claimant’s face. He was treated for a long period and the injury caused his face to look displeasing. At the time of accident, the said truck was insured with Oriental Insurance Company and the claimant claimed compensation of Rs 3 lakhs with an interest @18% per annum from the insurance company.
The truck owner denied maintainability of the case as well his own liability to compensate the claimant since the vehicle was insured. On the other hand, the insurance company nudged its liability and highlighted the fact that the claimant was travelling in the offending truck as a gratuitous passenger and that the truck driver violated terms and conditions of the insurance policy. The Tribunal concluded that the claimant could not establish sustaining permanent disablement because of the accident at the relevant point of time, and dismissed the claim holding that the claimant was not entitled to any compensation. The said decision was challenged in the instant matter.
Court’s Analysis of Liability for Compensation under Motor Vehicle Act, 1988
The Court considered the following questions:
Whether the claimant was a bonafide passenger of the truck, travelling as the owner of the goods?
Whether the claimant was entitled to any amount of compensation, and to what extent?
The Court analysed the evidence which unequivocally suggested that the claimant was a passenger travelling in the said truck, but the claimant did not state about any of his loaded goods in the statement or having taken the truck on hire. The Court thereby held him to be a gratuitous passenger in the goods carrying vehicle. Considering the nature of the injuries sustained, the Court held that the claimant was entitled to compensation since the claimant sustained bodily injuries and mental trauma arising out of the accident involving use of motor vehicle. The Court found compensation of a lump sum amount of Rs 75,000 to be just for claimant’s entitlement.
The Court clarified that the insurance company will not be liable to pay any compensation due to violation of terms of policy. The vehicle owner was liable to pay the amount of compensation since the claimant was a gratuitous passenger. The Court directed the vehicle owner to pay the amount of Rs. 75000 compensation to the claimant within 60 days after which, the amount would carry an interest @7% p.a.
[Ashok Kumar v. Birendra Kumar Singh, 2023 SCC OnLine Jhar 1291, decided on 1-09-2023]
Judgment by: Justice Ananda Sen
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioner: Advocate Nikhil Ranjan
For Respondents: Advocate Prashant Vidyarthi