Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: S.M. Subramaniam, J., while addressing a motor accident claim, observed that,

Once, the policy is contractual in nature and the parties have signed the agreement, then such a contract cannot be construed or brought within the ambit of statutory liability.

The Cholamandalam MS General Insurance Company Limited is the appellant. Respondent/Owner of Tata Indica Tourist Taxi TN-32-L-8595 dashed against the palm tree on the roadside due to unavoidable reasons, causing road traffic accident.

Respondent filed the claim petition under Section 163 of the Motor Vehicles Act seeking compensation of Rs 2,00,000 from the Insurance Company.

The Claim Petition was filed only against the appellant/Insurance company as the respondent car was insured with the appellant/Insurance company.

Appellant though defended the claim petition on the ground that the respondent was not some third party infcat he was the owner of the vehicle, therefore no statutory coverage in terms of Section 147(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 can be granted.

The Claim Petition was filed under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act. However, the Tribunal has referred the Claim Petition as if it was filed under Section 163A of the Motor Vehicles Act. However, misquoting of the provision could not disentitle the claimant from availing the rights.

Tribunal directed the Insurance Company to pay the compensation to the respondent.

Bench on perusal of the facts and circumstances of the present matter, stated that in the absence of any statutory liability on the part of the Insurance company, the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act cannot be invoked nor an adjudication can be done before the Tribunal.

The very purpose and object of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal are to adjudicate the Claim Petitions and grant ‘just compensation’ with reference to the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act.

If a particular Personal Accident Policy is contractual in nature, then statutory liability cannot be fixed on the Insurance company.

Contractual liability cannot be equated with statutory liability.

Owner’s Package Policy with reference to the Personal Accident Cover for owner-cum driver is contractual in nature. There is no third party involvement with reference to the Personal Accident Cover.

Tribunal granted compensation beyond the agreed contract between the parties to the Personal Accident Cover.

The Tribunal is bound to see the nature of the insurance policy as well as the coverage with reference to the terms and conditions stipulated, which were agreed between the parties.

Court added that in the vent of no coverage under the policy, the insurance company cannot be held liable to pay compensation.

No person is entitled to claim any benefit beyond the scope of the terms and conditions agreed between the parties.

MV Act being a Special Legislation and the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal constituted to deal with the Accident Claims specifically under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, the tribunal has no jurisdiction to deal with all other policies issued by the Insurance Company, which all are contractual in nature and the terms and conditions agreed between the parties specifically.

Insurance Policy

Motor Vehicle policies are issued by the Insurance company for the purpose of grant of compensation and the language employed is “Compensation”. However, the Personal Accident Coverage Policy reveals that it is “benefit” is to be granted.

Motor Accident Policies are strictly within the ambit of the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act. The Personal Accident Coverage Policy is strictly in accordance with the terms and conditions agreed between the parties.

Court also added that the tribunals are bound to look into the nature of the Policy at the first instance, before entertaining the Claim Petition as the tribunal cannot adjudicate the terms and conditions agreed between the parties in a contract and grant compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act.

In the present case, the Personal Accident Coverage Policy has been agreed between the insurance company and respondent under the Personal Accident Coverage Policy of amount Rs 2,00,000.

For availing the benefit of the Personal Accident Coverage Policy, the respondent/claimant has to establish the nature of the ‘disablement’ and the same is to be established before the competent Court of law and the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal is not empowered to entertain the Claim Petition under the Motor Vehicles Act.

Hence if the Insurance Company has deposited any award amount before the Tribunal, then they can withdraw the said amount with accrued interest.[Cholamandalam MS General v. Ramesh Babu, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 2164, decided on 02-09-2020]