Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Telangana: Justice MSK Jaiswal (President) and Meena Ramanathan (Member) upheld the District Commission’s Order observing the consequence of suppressing the material fact while taking an insurance policy.

If the insurer can show that prior to the date of declaration of being healthy, the insured was suffering with ailment which was within her knowledge but was suppressed, then the insurance company is well within its right to repudiate the claim on the ground of suppression veri.

Complainant had submitted that his wife has obtained new money back policy from the OPs with a duration of 20 years for an assured sum of Rs 10,00,000. At the time of accepting the policy, the OPs carried out mandatory medical tests on the proponent and issued the policy in question.

While the policy was in force, the holder died due to cardiorespiratory arrest.

Being the nominee, complainant made the claim with the OPs and to the utter shock and surprise, the OPs repudiated the claim on the ground that the deceased life assured was suffering from lung cancer and took treatment prior to obtaining the policy, hence the claim was repudiated.

Complainant prayed to direct the OPs to pay the amount.

It was stated that OPs investigated the matter, and it was revealed that the deceased life assured suppressed the material fact relating to her health condition giving incorrect answers in the proposal form.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench noted that OPs submission was that the insured was suffering from serious ailment viz., lung cancer and suppressed the said fact.

Commission reiterated the legal position that if the insured is found to have suppressed the information which was material for the insurer to decide about the issuance of the policy is made out, the insurance company cannot be made liable to indemnify the insured on the ground that contractual obligations between insured and insurer are based purely on good faith and if insured has knowingly failed to reveal the information which was within her exclusive knowledge, the insurer could not be said to be liable to indemnify the insured.

In the present case, the insurance company contended that even before taking the policy, the insured was suffering from a serious ailment and was undergoing treatment and evidence was placed on record with regard to the said contention.

Coram held that perusal of the crucial documents on record leaves no room for doubt that the insured was aware that she was suffering from a serious ailment for more than 6 months prior to taking the insurance policy and suppressing all those facts, she took the policy.

Therefore, District Commission’s Order holding that complainant was not entitled to any relief was upheld and the complaint was dismissed.[K.N. Vidyakarji v. Life Insurance Corporation of India, FA No. 402 of 2020, decided on 15-06-2021]


Advocates before the Commission:

Counsel for the Appellant: Karakot Nagekar Sai Kumar

Counsel for the Respondents: KRL Sarma

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: The Division Bench of Pushpa Sathyanaryana and S. Kannammal, JJ., revised the amount of compensation awarded to the claimant in a motor accident claim and enhanced it from Rs 30,89,430 to Rs 83,35,000.

Instant appeal was preferred challenging the decision and decree of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal.

Deceased was proceeding in a two-wheeler, driver of the lorry drove the vehicle in a rash and negligent manner, dashed against two-wheeler. Due to the said impact, the deceased sustained injuries and died.

In view of the above, legal heirs – appellants/claimant of the deceased filed claim petition.

Insurance Company submitted that the accident occurred due to the carelessness and negligence on the part of the deceased and the deceased had not possessed any valid driving licence.

Tribunal, after considering the oral and documentary evidence, held that the accident had occurred due to the drunken driving of the deceased and also because of the rash and negligent driving of the driver of the first respondent and fixed the liability at 50:50.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court noted that in the post-mortem report no mention about the presence of alcohol was there.

Court added that having failed to prove that the accident occurred due to the drunken driving of the deceased, contributory negligence of 50% could not be attributed to the deceased.

From the sketch placed on the investigation report, it represented that the deceased was going from South to North on the left extreme of the road and the offending vehicle, namely, the lorry which was coming in the opposite direction hit the deceased and he died. Therefore, even on that ground, negligence cannot be attributed to the deceased.

For proving an offence under Section 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, breath test is mandatory as per Section 203 of the MV Act.

Since the above was not satisfied, it was concluded that the deceased was not in a drunken state.

10% was deducted from the compensation on the ground that the deceased did not possess the valid driving licence

For the above contention, it was stated that he had only a learners licence. It is not the case of the second respondent that a person having LLR cannot ride on the road.

Though it is stated that a person having LLR and riding or driving should have an Instructor with them, it does not disqualify a person from riding a vehicle.

Award of the Tribunal was enhanced to Rs 83,35,000 from 30,89,430.[Kuralvani v. Kathirvelan, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2232, decided on 31-03-2021]


For Advocates before the Court:

For Appellants: Mr.I.Pinaygash

For R – 2 : Mr.B.Rajesh Saravanan

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): Dinesh Singh (Presiding Member) addresses matter regarding claiming of insurance cover.

Instant appeal was filed under Section 19 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 challenging the decision of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

Factual Matrix

Late Jai Prakash, husband/father of the Complainant met an unnatural death, had obtained four insurance policies from the Insurance Company. It was stated that the Insurance Company did not query three of the four policies.

In respect of the 4th policy, it was objected that the claim was on the ground that the death was not accidental but a case of suicide, falling under the exceptions to the policy, and the claim was declined.

Insurance Company argued that the three policies were concealed while taking the fourth policy i.e. the subject policy.

Commission agreed with the appraisal and reasoning of the State Commission’s findings that in the instant case non-disclosure of the previous policies by the life assured was not fatal to the claim.

Another argument made by the Insurance Company was that the life assured had committed suicide which fell under the exception clause of the policy, that it was not a case of accidental death. Further, the insurance company reported that the injuries on the deceased were only possible in cases of a suicide death.

Police in its Inquiry Report had concluded that the cause of the accident due to rail accident could not be ruled out.

The insurance company had raised the objection of suicide based on the “medico-legal” report of a private agency, prepared on perusal of the documents on record, after about one year of the incident.

Inquest is conducted as mandated under the Cr.P.C., Post Mortem is conducted by the concerned government Medical Officer, Investigation is conducted by the Police (a private agency engaged by the Insurance Co. does not substitute for the Police).

 It was further noted that there was no evidence on record that the Insurance Company made a police complaint or filed a complaint before the competent judicial magistrate that a false case of accidental death had been made out for a wrongful gain when the death was by suicide, or that any remedial action in case of the other three policies settled earlier was subsequently undertaken, or any disciplinary action against its functionaries responsible for settling the earlier three policies was taken.

Commission stated that weighing the evidence in its totality, the eventuality of the death being accidental cannot be ruled out and the benefit of preponderance of probability goes to the complainants.

Hence, State Commission erred in placing reliance on the report of a private agency engaged by the Insurance Company while ignoring the complete spectrum of evidence in the matter.

Therefore, the Insurance Company wrongly withheld the claim in respect of the subject policy.

Bench directed the Insurance Company to settle the claim of the subject policy with interest at 9% per annum.

For the undue harassment and the loss and injury caused to the Complainants and for the inconsistency and arbitrariness in decision making, a cost of Rs. 1 lakh is imposed on the Insurance Co. through its chief executive, of which Rs. 50 thousand shall be paid to the Complainants and Rs. 50 thousand shall be deposited in the Consumer Legal Aid Account of the State Commission.

“…advised to inculcate and imbibe systemic improvements for future, in that there is no inconsistency or arbitrariness in decision-making in identical facts and same points of law.”

[Kamla Devi v. Tata AIG Life Insurance Corporation, 2021 SCC OnLine NCDRC 182, decided on 10-06-2021]


For the Appellant: Mr. Praveen Kumar Aggarwal, Advocate

For the Respondents No. 1 &2: Mr. S. Hari Haran, Advocate

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Dr Kaushal Jayendra Thaker and Ajit Singh, JJ., allowed the appeal of the claimants in a motor vehicle accident claim while dismissing the appeal of the insurance company.

Claimants and Insurance Company on being aggrieved by the award and decree passed by Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, filed the present appeal.

Claimants were the legal heirs namely widow and parents of the deceased who died in the vehicular accident.

Deceased was earning Rs 25,00,000 and claimants claimed a sum of Rs 3,40,50,000.

Respondent’s truck was being driven by Afzal Sekh and was insured with National Insurance Company Limited who had been saddled with the liability to make good the amount of compensation.

Due to the truck rash and negligent driving the motorcycle of the deceased was dashed by the truck.

Insurance Company challenged the award on the grounds that the deceased was a contributor to the accident having taken place, that income considered by the Tribunal was on the higher side and the same would not have been made the basis of compensation.

Claimants felt aggrieved as the tribunal did not consider the amount for future loss of income and did not even grant proper interest. Tribunal also erred in directing 2/3rd of the compensation to be paid to the parents and 1/3rd to the widow.

What is Negligence?

Negligence means failure to exercise care towards others which a reasonable and prudent person would in a circumstance or taking action which such a reasonable person would not. Negligence can be both intentional or accidental which is normally accidental.

More particularly, it connotes reckless driving and the injured must always prove that the either side is negligent. If the injury rather death is caused by something owned or controlled by the negligent party then he is directly liable otherwise the principle of “res ipsa loquitur” meaning thereby “the things speak for itself” would apply.

Contributory Negligence

It means that a person who either contributes or author of the accident would be liable for his contribution to the accident having taken place.

In the present set of facts and circumstances, Bench while referring to the recent decision of the Supreme Court in Md. Siddiqui v. National Insurance Co. Ltd (2020) 3 SCC 57 would come to the aid of the claimants as there was no colossal connection of the deceased having contributed to the accident.

What is Liability?

Liability of the Insurance Company.

While considering the issue of breach of policy condition under Section 149 of the Act Bench relied to elaborately sift the documentary evidence on record and whether the owner had taken proper care and caution to see that the driver was authorised to drive the vehicle or not.

High Court opined that the Insurance Company’s contention that the driver was not holding valid and effective driving licence could not be accepted.

While considering the case of the Insurance Company, can it be said that the driver did not have valid driving licence? This question has to be answered in favour of the claimants and owner.

Owner of the vehicle was satisfied, and it was proved that he had taken all care and caution that vehicle was being driven by a person who was authorised to drive the same which was even apparent from the fact that the owner had gone to the extent of producing evidence so as to bring home the fact that there was no breach of policy condition.

Hence, it was held that no breach of policy conditions was committed.

Compensation

It was submitted that the tribunal did not grant the proper amount under the head of non-pecuniary damages to the widow who became a widow at the age of 24 and who was not re-married.

Even the Insurance Company felt aggrieved and challenged the compensation.

Supreme Court held that in the case of motor accident compensation, guess work is inevitable.

Compensation payable to the appellants in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in National Insurance Company Ltd. v. Pranay Sethi, (2017) 16 SCC 680

With respect to the issue of rate of interest, it should be 7.5% in view of the Supreme Court decision in National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Mannat Johat, 2019 (2) T.A.C 705 (S.C.)

Disbursement and Tax at Source

Claimants Counsel Ram Singh submitted that several years elapsed, parents are at the fag end of their lives, therefore, on additional deposit being made, this Court may not direct deposit of said amounts in fixed deposits and though this Court had time and gain directed the Insurance Companies not to deduct TDS, the same was being deducted.

Bench relied on the Supreme Court decision in A.V. Padma v. R. Venugopal, (2012) 3 SCC 378.

Further, Court stated that people even rustic villagers’ have bank account which had to be compulsorily linked with Aadhar, therefore, what is the purpose of keeping money in fixed deposits in banks where a person, who suffered injuries or lost his kith and kin, was not able to see the colour of compensation.

“..time is now ripe for setting fresh guidelines as far as the disbursements are concerned.”

Court expressed that the guidelines in General Manager, Kerala, SRTC, Trivandrum v. Susamma Thomas, (1994) 2 SCC 176, are being blindly followed causing more trouble these days to the claimants as the Tribunals are overburdened with the matters for each time if they require some money, they have to move the tribunal where matters would remain pending and the tribunal on its free will, as if money belonged to them, would reject the applications for disbursements, which is happening in most of the cases.

The parties for their money have to come to court more particularly up to High Court, which is a reason for our pain.

In High Court’s opinion, Tribunal may release the money with certain stipulations and that guidelines have to be followed but not rigidly followed as precedents.

Further, it was added that while sitting in Single Bench of this Court, Dr Justice Kaushal Jayendra Thaker held that the Insurance Company should not deduct any amount under T.D.S in the case of Sudesna v. Hari Singh, F.A.F.O. No.23 of 2001, decided on 26.11.2020, which should be strictly adhered to.

Hence, appeals by claimants were partly allowed and the appeal preferred by the Insurance Company was dismissed.

Respondents shall jointly and severally liable to pay the additional amount with an interest at the rate of 7.5%

Court directed that on deposit of amount, Tribunal shall disburse the entire amount by way of account payee cheque or by way of RTGS to the account of the claimants. [National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Anuradha Kejriwal, 2021 SCC OnLine All 269, decided on 13-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Counsel for Appellant: Kuldip Shanker Amist, Manoj Nigam

Counsel for Respondent: Manoj Nigam, Amit Kumar Sinha, Deepali Srivastava Sinha, Mata Pher, Ram Singh

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: A Division Bench of P. R. Ramchandra Menon and Parth Prateem Sahu JJ. allowed the appeal and modified the impugned award.

The facts of the case are such that on 20-04-2010 Bhuvan Singh, Pramila and other persons were travelling on the offending vehicle and going to Manvari from Village Tilokhan. On the way at about 11.30 pm near crossing bridge at Charvahi Pasan Ghat, due to rash and negligent driving of NA1/driver, the offending vehicle met with an accident and overturned wherein Bhuvan Singh, and Pramila died. The legal representatives of both deceased individuals filed claims petition before Claims Tribunal which was partially granted and the liability was fastened on the Insurance Company to pay for it. Aggrieved by the same, appeal has been filed by the Insurance Company.

Counsel for the appellants submitted that vehicle in which deceased persons along with others were travelling was a goods vehicle. The policy issued for the offending vehicle for a period from was under the head “Goods Carrying Vehicle Package Policy wherein no premium was charged for any occupants/labourers etc. The Insurance Company cannot be held liable to satisfy the amount of compensation in absence of any coverage of risk for the gratuitous passengers travelling on the offending vehicle. It was further submitted that as per Section 147 of the Act of 1988, there is no statutory liability of the Insurance Company for covering the risk of any other persons than the employee or owner of the goods vehicle.

Counsel for the respondents submitted that the impugned award passed by the learned Claims Tribunal and submits that learned Claims Tribunal, based on the evidence and material available on record has passed the impugned award which does not call for any interference.

The Court observed that the Policy is issued under Section 147 of the Act, 1988, wherein the risk of gratuitous passenger travelling in goods vehicle is not covered, relied on judgment National Insurance Company Limited v. Chollety Bharatamma, (2008) 1 SCC 423 wherein it was held that that injury to any person used under Section 147(1) (b) would only mean third person and not a passenger gratuitous or other. It further observed that :

‘9. … The difference in the language of ‘goods vehicle’ as appearing in the old Act and ‘goods carriage’ in the Act is of significance. A bare reading of the provisions makes it clear that the legislative intent was to prohibit goods vehicle from carrying any passenger. This is clear from the expression ‘in addition to passengers’ as contained in the definition of ‘goods vehicle’ in the old Act. The position becomes further clear because the expression used ‘goods carriage’ is solely for the carriage of ‘goods’. Carrying of passengers in a goods carriage is not contemplated in the act. There is no provision similar to Clause (ii) of the proviso appended to Section 95 of the old Act prescribing requirement of insurance policy. Even Section 147 of the Act mandates compulsory coverage against death of or bodily injury to any passenger of ‘public service vehicle’. The proviso makes it further clear that compulsory coverage in respect of drivers and conductors of public service vehicle and employees carried in goods vehicle would be limited to liability under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923 (in short ‘the WC Act’).

  1. The inevitable conclusion, therefore, is that provisions of the Act do not enjoin any statutory liability on the owner of a vehicle to get his vehicle insured for any passenger travelling in a goods carriage and the insurer would have no liability therefor.”
  2. It is now well settled that the owner of the goods means only the person who travels in the cabin of the vehicle.”

The Court thus held that the finding recorded by Claims Tribunal with regard to breach of a policy condition is contrary to law. Hence the insurance company was absolved from the liability to pay and the owner and driver of the offending vehicle were directed to pay the compensation.

In view of the above, the impugned award was set aside.[HDFC ERGO General Insurance Co. Ltd v. Sitaram, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 1452, decided on 07-10-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Dr Kaushal Jayendra Thaker, J., observed that if the insurance co. will not be liable to pay interest, then it will be against the spirit of taking an insurance policy, and the very object for introducing insurance policy will get frustrated.

Appeals in the instant matter are out of the decision and award passed by the Commissioner, Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923 being Additional Labour Commissioner, Kanpur awarding a sum of Rs 6,30,062 with interest at the rate of 9% in favour the claimants.

The owner was saddled with the liability to pay interest.

Question of law in the instant case:

Whether in the given facts and circumstances of the case, the Commission has committed a manifest error of law holding that if the respondent has failed to deposit the awarded amount within 30 days from the date of judgment then only claimants are entitled to the interest at the rate of 9% from the date of award till the amount is deposited.

Owner’s Counsel submitted that the Commissioner committed patent error directing the owner to pay interest.

Counsel for the insurance Company tried to point out that the judgment and order impugned was just and proper as it was the duty of the owner to notify the insurance company about the accident which was not done and hence the owner was saddled with the payment of interest till the date of the decision.

While dealing with the above question of law, the Court found it appropriate to reproduce Section 4A of the Act. 

Section 4A. Compensation to be paid when due and the penalty for default.

Supreme Court’s decision in Oriental Insurance Company v. Siby George, 2012 (4) T.A.C 4(SC) wherein it was held that the payment of interest is a consequence of default and it has to be directed to be paid without going into the reasons for the delay and only in case where the delay is without justification, the employer might also be held liable to a penalty after giving him a show-cause notice. Thus, just because the owner had not intimated to the Insurance Company, it cannot be the reason for not directing the Insurance Company to pay the interest.

Hence, in the findings that the Insurance Company will not be liable for interest is against the spirit of taking the insurance policy and the very object for introducing insurance policy would get frustrated.

High Court in view of the several Supreme Court decisions partly allowed the appeals.

Hence Judgment and award of the Commissioner shall stand modified to the aforesaid extent namely to the extent that the Insurance Company shall deposit the decretal amount with interest at the rate of 12% from one month after the date of accident till the amount is deposited.

In the present matter, it is the parents who were demanding from one son for the death of another son and they have claimed from Insurance Company with whom the vehicle was insured to make payment. Therefore, the minimum penalty of Rs 10,000 would suffice on the Insurance Company. 

Appellants shall deposit a sum of Rs 10,000 which would be a substitution for the penalty. [Chanda Begum v. Shahnawaz, 2020 SCC OnLine All 1487, decided on 16-12-2020]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): C. Vishwanath (Presiding Member), held that since the Insurance Company itself insured the complainant’s vehicle and the vehicle had been stolen during the currency of the Policy and the Police were informed immediately, the Insurance Company could not repudiate the claim.

The instant revision petition was filed under Section 21(b) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 against the Order passed by Rajasthan State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

Facts of the case

Respondent obtained an Insurance Policy from the petitioner for his Car being temporary registration for a sum of Rs 6,17,800.

In the night of 28-07-2011, Complainant’s car was stolen from Geeta Guest House, Jodhpur. Police could not trace the vehicle and submitted a negative final report. Complainant submitted an insurance claim with the Opposite Party/Insurance Company. Petitioner/Opposite Party repudiated the claim, on the ground that intimation of theft of the vehicle was given to the Insurance Company with delay, which was in violation of the Policy condition and though temporary registration of the vehicle expired on 19-07-2011, the Complainant did not get the vehicle permanently registered. Thirdly, the Complainant left the vehicle unattended outside the guesthouse, in violation of the Policy condition.

District Forum dismissed the complaint stating “as at the time of the theft the vehicle is not registered, there was no deficiency in service on the part of the Opposite Party”.

Against the order of the District Forum, the Complainant preferred an Appeal before the State Commission and State Commission set aside the order of the District Forum while allowing the appeal.

Aggrieved by the State Commission’s Order, Opposite Party/Insurance Company preferred the present Revision Petition.

Analysis and Decision

Core issue for the adjudication was in regard to the registration of the vehicle after expiry of temporary registration.

Since the Petitioner/Insurance Company had received the insurance premium and there was no violation of any specific condition in the Insurance Policy, the Insurance Company was liable to indemnify the insured for the loss suffered by the insured.

Though plying a vehicle on road without registration is a violation of provisions of Motor Vehicle Act, the Competent Authority to take action against a non-registered vehicle is the Police and other Government authorities. Insurance Company after accepting the premium, cannot escape from its liability and repudiate the claim on this technical ground.

Commission in view of the instant matter stated that:

The temporary registration of the vehicle expired on 19-07-2011 and the car got stolen on 28-07-2011, mere 9 days later. The Motor Vehicle Act does provide for registration of vehicle after its expiry on payment of certain fee.

Commission held that when the Insurance Company itself insured the complainant’s vehicle and the vehicle had been stolen during the currency of the Policy and the Police was informed immediately, the Insurance Company cannot repudiate the claim of the Complainant on a technical ground.

In view of the above-discussion, State Commission’s Order was justified and the same did not suffer from any illegality, therefore revision petition was dismissed. [United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Sushil Kumar Godara, 2020 SCC OnLine NCDRC 494, decided on 11-12-2020]


Advocates for the parties:

For the petitioner: Ms Suman Bagga, Advocate

For the Respondent: NEMO

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): Dinesh Singh (Presiding Member) while addressing the instant first appeal upheld the State Commission’s Order in regard to a claim filed by the insured with the insurance company.

The instant appeal was filed under Section 19 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 challenging the Order passed by the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Maharashtra.

Complainant Firm took an insurance policy to cover its plant and machinery, electrical installations and stock-in-trade. The premium was paid for the valid policy. In 2005, an incident of fire took place and the insurance company was intimated after which survey was conducted.

The complainant had claimed an amount of Rs 17,00,000 but the surveyor assessed the loss at Rs 1,54,500. Since the Complainant Firm failed to submit the relevant record for verification, as mentioned in the Surveyor’s Report. Hence, Insurance Company filed the claim as ‘no claim’.

State Commission vide its impugned Order dated 22-09-2015 allowed the Complaint at the loss assessed by the Insurance Co.’s Surveyor i.e. at Rs 1,54,500 and awarded the said amount with interest at the rate of 9% per annum.

Complainant Firm appealed before this Commission for enhancement in compensation, specifically for accepting its claimed loss of Rs 17,00,000.

Analysis and Decision

Investigation and Survey by an insurance company are fundamental in determining the amount payable to the insured.

Bench observed that an insurance company is duty-bound to appoint its surveyor in accordance with the provisions of the Insurance Act, 1938 (Section 64 UM Surveyors or loss assessors specifically refers). A Survey cannot be disregarded or dismissed without cogent reasons.

Further, the Commission also observed that the onus,

[a] of showing that the Report of the Surveyor appointed by the Insurance Co. was flawed and

[b] of showing that actually, in fact, the loss was Rs 17,00,000, was on the Complainant Firm, which onus it failed to discharge.

Hence, in view of the above discussion, the Commission held that the State Commission had passed a reasoned order.

State Commission’s impugned order was upheld and confirmed.[Wilson Home Appliances v. New India Assurance Co. Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine NCDRC 493, decided on 10-12-2020]


Advocates who appeared for the matter:

For the Appellant:  Ms Manisha T. Karia, Advocate

For Respondent 1: Mr S. M. Tripathi, Advocate

For the Respondent 2: Ex parte

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Dr Kaushal Jayendra Thaker, J., directed the insurance company to indemnify the claimants of the deceased who died in an accident, subject, inter alia, to recovery/deduction of 10% of the amount since the present is a case of contributory negligence.

 Present appeal arose from the accident which injured the family of the deceased (late District Judge) and in which the sole bread earner of the family lost his life in the accident. It has been stated that both the driver of the car and owner of the car died whereas the driver of the truck also lost his life.

Claimants preferred the present appeal against the judgment and award passed by Additional District Judge/Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Allahabad.

Insurance company challenged the grant of compensation in Durga Verma v. Ranno Devi, FAFO No. 1359 of 2001 and FAFO No. 1365 of 2001 whereby the insurance company challenged the judgments qua quantum and alleged breach of policy condition and have also challenged the finding of the tribunal as far as negligence attributed to the driver of the truck was concerned.

Facts that lead to the present appeals

Husband and father of the claimants respectively died in an accident which occurred in the year 1994. The car which the deceased was driving dashed with another vehicle (a truck) causing the death of drivers of both the vehicles who succumbed to injuries caused by the said accident.

The insurance company contested that the vehicle in which the Fiat car dashed was not involved in the accident and the insurance company was not liable and the driver was not having a valid driving license, hence there was a breach of a policy condition. Insurance company contended that it was a case of contributory negligence on the part of the driver of the car.

Insurance Company preferred two appeals against the award in favour of the heirs of driver of Fiat car and heirs of owner of Fiat car. The injured and heirs of both driver and owner have also filed appeals for enhancement.

Analysis & Decision

The Bench stated that it will advert to the principles of negligence: both contributory as well as composite negligence. Further, it added that it is a case of composite negligence but qua the driver of the Fiat car, it can be a case of contributory negligence.

Relying on the decision of Supreme Court in Pappu v. Vinod Kumar Lamba, (2018) 3 SCC 208 and Sant Lal v. Rajesh, (2017) 8 SCC 590, the Bench stated that the liability would arise if a number of the licence was given and issuing authorities whereabouts were given in absence of the same, the insurance company has to be granted recovery rights from the owner of the truck to recover subject to the procedure suggested in the above two cases.

Insurance company did not file any documentary evidence, however, subject to the fact that the driver of the truck did not possess a proper driving license, they are granted recovery rights from the owner.

Negligence

Negligence means failure to exercise the required degree of care expected of a prudent driver. Negligence is the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided upon the considerations, which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do. Negligence is not always a question of direct evidence. It is an inference to be drawn from proved facts.

What may be negligence in one case may not be so in another.

Well-Settled Law

At the intersection where two roads cross each other, it is the duty of a fast-moving vehicle to slow down and if the driver did not slow down at the intersection, but continued to proceed at a high speed without caring to notice that another vehicle was crossing, then the conduct of driver necessarily leads to the conclusion that vehicle was being driven by him rashly as well as negligently.

In the instant matter, the Bench observed that:

“Merely, because the driver of the truck was driving a vehicle on the left side of road would not absolve him from his responsibility to slow down vehicle as he approaches the intersection of roads, particularly when he could have easily seen, that the car over which deceased was riding, was approaching intersection.”

Court added that, even if courts may not by interpretation displace the principles of law which are considered to be well settled and, therefore, court cannot dispense with proof of negligence altogether in all cases of motor vehicle accidents, it is possible to develop the law further on the following lines; when a motor vehicle is being driven with reasonable care, it would ordinarily not meet with an accident and, therefore, rule of res-ipsa loquitor as a rule of evidence may be invoked in motor accident cases with greater frequency than in ordinary civil suits [per three-Judge Bench in Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab, (2005) 6 SCC 1.

It was held that by the above process, the burden of proof may ordinarily be cast on the defendants in a motor accident claim petition to prove that motor vehicle was being driven with reasonable care or that there is equal negligence on the part the other side. In the present case, the vehicles are of unequal magnitude: one is a fiat car and the other a truck; the oral testimony of the witnesses go to show that the truck driver driving the vehicle at an exorbitant speed could not control itself, but at the same time if the driver of the Fiat car would also had been cautious, he would have averted the accident taking place and therefore he is held to be also “co-author” of the accident but to the tune of 10%.

Bench held that, it is case of composite negligence as far as the other inmates of Fiat car are concerned and therefore the insurance company will have to indemnify the claimants however it may recover the said amount to the tune of 10% from the owner-driver and insurance company of the Fiat car. As far as the claimant is concerned who is the widow of the driver of the Fiat car the compensation would be lessened to the tune of 10% as the driver has been held to be negligent to that effect. The driver of the Fiat car should have also taken proper caution and having not done so some negligence is attributed to him also.

Hence, the appeals preferred by the insurance company are decided likewise.

Appeals of claimants were partly allowed. [National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Durga Verma,  2019 SCC OnLine All 6696, decided on 10-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: S.M. Modak, J., examined the jurisdiction of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal in regard to claim made by the insured/owner under a personal accident claim against the insurance company.

Liability of Insurance Company

The circumstance involved in the present appeal about the liability of the insurance company to pay as per clause ‘personal accident cover’ in the insurance policy.

Crux of the issue

What will be the extent of liability of the insurance company when the insured/owner of the Jeep was himself the driver-cum-deceased and when no other vehicle was involved?

Does Motor Accident Claims Tribunal have jurisdiction to decide the above-stated claim?

Legal representative of the deceased claimed compensation from the respondent-Insurance Company from the MACT by invoking the provisions of Section 163-A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. Though MACT had denied the same.

The Insurance Company — respondent had denied their liability. The policy does not cover loss occasioned to the insured person, because he is not the third party.

Withdrawal of earlier claim petition under Section 166 of the M.V. Act and non-maintainability of a fresh petition under Section 163-A of the M.V. Act was also emphasized.

Trial Court held:

“the owner/insured cannot be said to be a third party and hence exonerated the company”.

The correctness of the above-stated decision was challenged.

Scope of the appeal:

1) Whether the Insurance Company is liable to reimburse under the caption personal accident of the insured?

2) Whether the MACT can award compensation?

Bench noted that the Question is always raised whether the registered owner can be said to be a ‘third party’. This question is no more res-integra. There are numerous judgments available in regard to the said issue.

Supreme Court had the occasion to decide the correctness of the decision of the High Court in the case of National Insurance Company Limited v. Ashalata Bhowmik, (2018) 9 SCC 801.

The insurance company was held responsible to pay to the legal representatives of the deceased to driver/owner of the vehicle. Supreme Court reiterated the law regarding the liability of insurance companies in case of the death of the owner/its own insured. When the insured is not liable, the question of liability of the insurer does not arise.

Insurance company relied on the following two decisions:

[Karnataka High Court] Sangeetha Subramani v. Sri Krishna Chari Puttachari,2018 SCC OnLine Kar 3835.

“Whether rider of a two-wheeler (who is not the owner) can claim compensation as a third party for an accident where no other vehicle is involved?”

Claimants were held not entitled to claim compensation under Sections 163-A or 166 of M.V. Act.

[Madras High Court] Cholamandalam MS General Insurance Company Ltd. v. Ramesh Babu,2020 SCC OnLine Mad 2164

A similar issue was involved in the said case regarding the liability of the insurance company to comply with the promises given as per the personal accident coverage clause of the package policy. MACT allowed the claim. Number of contentions were raised on behalf of the insurance company before the High Court. It includes the jurisdiction of M.A.C.T., entitlement to compensation (more than the maximum limit mentioned in the clause) under the phrase ‘just compensation’. All the contentions were answered in favour of the insurance company and the claim petition was dismissed.

Decision

Bench diverged from the view taken by the Karnataka and Madras High Court on the issue involved.

Supreme Court’s Decision in National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Laxmi Narain Dhut, (2007) 3 SCC 700 was found to be relevant in the present matter.

Observation in the case of Laxmi Narain Dhut:

“21. Where the claim relates to own damage claims, it cannot be adjudicated by the insurance company, but it has to be decided by another forum i.e. forum created under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (in short “the CP Act”). Before the Tribunal, there were essentially three parties i.e. the insurer, the insured and the claimants. On the contrary, before the Consumer Forums there were two parties i.e. owner of the vehicle and the insurer. The claimant does not come into the picture. Therefore, these are cases where there is no third party involved”.

High Court stated that the Madras High Court’s view in Cholamandalam MS General Insurance Company Ltd. v. Ramesh Babu  2020 SCC OnLine Mad 2164 was restricted with the issue of jurisdiction of MACT.

Adding to its observations, Court stated that the provisions of Section 165 of the M.V. Act deal with the jurisdiction of MACT.

When certain conditions are fulfilled, MACT gets jurisdiction. They are:

a) Claim for compensation in respect of accidents.

b) Arising out of use of the motor vehicle.

Section 165 of the M.V. Act nowhere contemplates dealing with a claim only when the policy is obtained under Section 147 of the M.V. Act.

Court held that,

Petition before the MACT will be maintainable once the condition under Section 165 of M.V. Act are fulfilled. So, in the given case, there is a clause of personal accident coverage in case of motor accident, MACT can entertain the petition.

Bench also stated that it was fortified with the observations made in the followings cases:

Thiruvalluvar Transport Corpn. v. Consumer Protection Council, (1995) 2 SCC 479

Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company Ltd. v. C. Ramesh, 2013 (1) TN MAC 325.

Concluding the decision, Court rejected the contention that MACT cannot entertain the claim made by the insured/owner under a personal accident claim against the insurance company.

The present appeal was allowed and the Insurance Company was directed to pay Rs 2,00,000 to the appellants with the interest @6%. [Mangala v. National Insurance Company Limited, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 974, decided on 29-09-2020]


Also Read:

Madras HC | Can MACT deal with claims & policies other than Accident Claims provisions of MV Act? Contractual & Statutory liability cannot be equated: HC elaborates

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: While deciding the instant appeals which raised objections concerning the jurisdiction of the J&K High Court to hear and decide appeals arising out of the orders passed by the Jammu and Kashmir State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, in view of the application of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 which repealed the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir Consumer Protection Act, 1987; the Division Bench of Ali Mohammad Magrey and Vinod Chatterji Koul, JJ., held that that all the pending proceedings/ appeals arising out of the orders or awards passed by the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission will continue to be heard and decided by the High Court as if the un-amended provision/ Act is still in force.

However, the Bench clarified that from now on all the fresh proceedings concerning consumer complaints/ grievances/appeals shall be dealt with as per the mode and method prescribed in the newly changed scheme of law as provided in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019.

As per the facts of the case, the complainant owned a residential building which he had insured with both; the National Insurance Company Ltd. and the Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. On 23-09-2002, some terrorists sneaked into his house. In the gun battle that ensued between the terrorists and the security personnel, the insured/complainant’s house was heavily damaged and was eventually razed to the ground in order to eliminate the terrorists. Complainant claims to have approached both the Insurance companies to depute surveyors on the spot. National Insurance Company Ltd. deputed an investigator to the spot, who, after making spot inspection, asked for certain documents from the complainant which were provided; however the complainant received no further information. The Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., however, did not depute any Surveyor to the spot; instead, a communication was addressed by the Company to the complainant informing him that the policy stood terminated from the date of its inception. Therefore, the complainant approached the then Jammu and Kashmir State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission for relief. As per the Commission’s assessment, the total liability was fixed to Rs. 15 Lakhs which was to be shared by both the Insurance companies. Complainant, being dissatisfied with the said order, has filed the appeal seeking enhancement of compensation in his favour. Hakim Suhail Ishtiaq, appearing on behalf of the complainant, submitted that the Commission, while passing the impugned order, did not appreciate the evidence on record in its true and correct perspective. J. A. Kawoosa, representing the National Insurance Company Ltd., argued that the impugned order passed by the Commission is contrary to law. Whereas N. H. Khuroo, appearing on behalf of the Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., challenged this Court’s jurisdiction to hear and decide these appeals in view of the application of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019. Counsels for both the Insurance companies contended that the insured/complainant had effected the insurance without disclosing vital material facts like the occupation of the premises by the terrorists as well as the existence of the simultaneous policy of insurance obtained from the other Insurance Company, thereby violating the principle of ‘uberrima fidei’.

Examining the facts of the case and the contentions raised by the parties, the Court observed that issue pertains to the nature of the disclosure made by the insured/ complainant in the proposal form and its impact on the entire process of invitation and acceptance of the offer. The relationship between an insurer and the insured is recognized as one where mutual obligation of trust and good faith are paramount. The Court upon perusing the evidences noted that the insured did make lapses in revealing certain vital information regarding the premises.

Thus, Bench held that the Commission had erred in properly appreciating the evidence on record, therefore its impugned order granting the compensation of Rs 15 lakhs to the complainant was set aside.[Sajad Ahmad Malik v. Divisional Manager, National Insurance Company Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine J&K 299 , decided on 22-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: Akil Kureshi, CJ., dismissed an appeal filed aggrieved by the order of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal by the insurance company.

The original claimant had been travelling on a motorcycle as a pillion rider when the vehicle collided with a four-wheeler of TATA ACE make coming from the opposite direction and the claimant suffered serious bodily injuries. The doctors had opined that he had suffered permanent partial disability of 45% of the body as a whole and he would be seriously restricted in his movement and work. The Claims Tribunal had awarded total compensation of Rs 25,55,520 under various heads including the pain, shock and suffering, medical treatment, etc considering the fact that he was a private doorstep banking officer drawing a salary of Rs 12,592. The insurance company had mainly contested the computation of compensation for future loss of income and questioned him about the employment in the said bank. The Member Secretary-cum Locomotor Specialist at the District Disability Medical Board certified that claimant was suffering from locomotor disability in the right leg resulting into permanent disability of 45% and it was a non-progressive injury which meant that the patient would not be able to perform any physical activity standing up without any exterior support for the rest of his life.

The Court while dismissing the appeal and agreed with the view of the Tribunal that such disability had resulted into at least 50% reduction in the earning capacity of the claimant and his job was private one and did not have any security and his potential for reemployment had also come down thus the Tribunal had rightly applied the formula for future rise and multiplier as suggested by the Supreme Court the in case of Sarla Verma v. DTC, (2009) 6 SCC 121. [National Insurance Company Ltd. v. Chittu Das, 2020 SCC OnLine Tri 93, decided on 14-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: H.T. Narendra Prasad, J. while allowing the appeal in part and condoning the delay ordered that the claimant was not entitled to the interest for the delayed period of 358 days.

This Miscellaneous First Appeal was filed under Section 173(1) of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 seeking enhancement of compensation as the Motor Accident Claim Tribunal granted the compensation of Rs 80, 340 with interest of 6% interest and fastened liability on the owner of the vehicle.

The claimants were on a two-wheeler motorcycle, in one moment a tempo driven in a rash and negligent manner coming from opposite side dashed against the motorcycle. Due to this, the claimant suffered grievous injuries.

Counsel for the appellant, Harish S. Maigur, referred a case of Rani v. National Insurance Company Limited, (2018) 8 SCC 492 in which was held that the insurance company has to pay award amount to the owner of the vehicle. After then, they can recover the same from the owner. The Counsel submitted in the light of this judgment that the Tribunal did not pay heed to this particular observation of the Supreme Court.

Counsel for Respondent 2-Insurance Company, G.N. Raichur, submitted that the permit of the Respondent 1 was not valid on the date of the accident. Hence, the Tribunal rightly passed the liability on the owner of the vehicle.

The Court agreed with the submissions of the parties but cited the aforesaid Judgment in which it was also held that even though the offending vehicle did not possess a valid permit to operate in the State concerned, the Insurance Company has to satisfy the award first. Thereafter, it can recover the same from the offending vehicle.

In view of the above, the Court modified the judgment and award of the Tribunal and directed the Insurance Company to pay the compensation with interest instead of the owner. Once, that is paid it can recover that amount from the owner of the vehicle. [Manjunath v. Mrityunjaya, 2019 SCC OnLine Kar 2098, decided on 16-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Lisa Gill, J. dismissed the appeal filed by insurance company challenging the amount of compensation granted by the Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal (‘MACT’).

In the present case, one Dalip Singh and Aslam (deceased), met with a motor vehicle accident which led to their fatal death. The MACT had awarded compensation to the families of both the deceased. Aggrieved thereby, the insurance company filed the present appeal stating that the said case did not fall under a motor vehicle accident and thus prayed for reducing the amount of compensation. Appeal was also filed by the claimants praying to increase the amount of compensation awarded.

In the appeal filed by the insurance company, the appellant contended that there was no evidence of a motor vehicle in the FIR, therefore, the respondents could not claim compensation for a motor accident. Also, the age of the deceased was wrongly concluded hence the amount of compensation must be reduced. Whereas in the appeal by the claimants, they contended for an increase in the compensation amount awarded by the Tribunal. However, they accepted the fact that the age of the deceased was wrongly concluded.

The Court after referring to all the facts, and hearing the witness with placed reliance on the judgment in Mangla Ram v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., (2018) 5 SCC 656 where it was opined that claimants in proceedings under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 have to prove their case on the touchstone of preponderance of probabilities and not beyond reasonable doubt.

It was held that the claimants had successfully proved the involvement of a vehicle and hence the judgment of the MACT was upheld. However, after analyzing the facts and the on consideration of a change in the age of the deceased, the Court reduced the amount of compensation.[IFFCO Tokio General Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Asha Devi, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 1403, decided on 22-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: S. Kumar, J. dismissed the appeal filed by the insurance company on the grounds that the parties were liable severally as well as jointly. Although the company had the right to recover such compensation paid from the other party involved in the accident for which insurance was being claimed.

A miscellaneous appeal was filed under Section 173 of Motor Vehicle Act by the appellant against the Judgment and Award passed by the 1st Additional District Judge-cum-Motor Accident Claim Tribunal, Saran at Chapra in Claim Case No. 22 of 2002, by which the learned Claims Tribunal directed the appellant to pay a sum of Rs 3,50,000 to the claimant with interest @ 6 % per annum from the date of claim case till its realization.

The claimant was the husband of one Parwati Devi who died in a motor accident while travelling on a Commander Jeep which collided with another Commander Jeep on 19-09-2001 at about 10:00 PM The deceased was seriously injured and while she was being taken to hospital she succumbed to the injuries. An FIR was instituted under Sections 279, 338 and 304-A of the Penal Code against the drivers of both the vehicles and after investigation the police found the case to be true against drivers of both vehicles.

The appellant had appeared and had filed their written statement in which they denied the claim of claimants. The tribunal, after having examined the material brought on as evidence, held that the deceased died due to rash and negligent driving by the drivers of both vehicles and there was composite negligence on part of both the drivers. The Tribunal had further held that it was a case of composite negligence and the claimant was entitled to claim the compensation amount from either the owner or the insurer of the vehicle and had directed the appellant who was the insurer, to pay compensation.

High Court did not find any error or infirmity in the order passed by the tribunal and as such present appeal was dismissed as a liability to pay the compensation was joint and as well as several. However, since there was a specific finding of the tribunal that there was composite negligence on part of drivers of both the vehicles as such the appellant was entitled to recover 50% of the compensation amount paid to the claimant from the owner /insurer of the other offending vehicle.

In view of the above noted facts, the instant appeal was dismissed with the directions that the insurance company had to pay the balance claim amount with interest @ 6% from the date of presentation of claim till its realization within one month from the receipt of a copy of order passed by the court with a right of recovery of 50% of the compensation amount so paid from the owner /insurer of the other offending vehicle.[New India Assurance Co. Ltd v. Kanchan Bhagat, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 1737, decided on 02-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: Sandeep Mehta, J. dismissed an appeal from the Insurance company seeking exoneration of a lower court order.

In the present case, two appeals arose challenging the lower court judgment-cum-award. The parties have challenged the amount awarded by the trial court, primarily disputing over the salary amount earned by the deceased driver. Due to contradictions in the statements of the claimants, the insurance company and the employer of the deceased, the trial court had considered the income being Rs 2000 per month and accordingly had calculated the compensation amount under Section 163A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. The claimants being one of the appellants filed for enhancement of the compensation amount awarded and the Insurance Company, being the other appellants was seeking exoneration of the award.

The counsel representing the insurance company, D.K. Gaur, claimed exoneration on two grounds, that the deceased driver was not having a valid driving license to drive a light motor vehicle and he was driving in a rash and negligent manner.

The Court upon perusal of facts, circumstances, and records dismissed the appeal of the claimants stating the award passed by the trial court is not on the lower end and is absolutely justified. The Court also dismissed the contentions of the insurance company stating that the controversy relating to the deceased not having the valid license was decided as no longer res Integra by Mukund Dewangan v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. (2017) 14 SCC 663 and stated that in United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Sunil Kumar, (2014) 1 SCC 680, it was decided that regarding negligence of the owner it is “to be decided by the structured formula and the adjudication thereunder is required to be made without requirement of any proof of negligence of the driver/owner of the vehicle involved in the accident”. Thus, the Court decided both the appeals are to be dismissed and the award passed by the trial court was justified.[Maniram v. Jenudeen, 2019 SCC OnLine Raj 2809, decided on 09-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: H.T. Narendra Prasad, J. dismissed the appeal filed by an Insurance Company against the order passed by Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT).

In the instant case, Jyothi and Nagaraj were traveling on a motorcycle and a lorry came in a rash and negligent manner and dashed against the motorcycle. As a result, Jyothi fell on the road and the lorry ran over her and she died while shifting her to the hospital. Hence, the parents of the deceased filed the claim petition before the Tribunal. The Tribunal granted compensation of Rs 6,96,000 with interest at 6 percent per annum. Being aggrieved by the same, the Insurance Company filed the present appeal.

The learned counsel for the petitioner, Lingaraj H S submitted that the Tribunal had erred in taking the multiplier based on the age of the deceased instead of based on the age of the mother. Further, the Tribunal was unjustified in adding 50 percent of the income of the deceased towards loss of future prospects while calculating the “loss of dependency”. Further, the compensation of Rs 25,000 each awarded to the claimants in the category of “loss of love and affection” was on the higher side. Therefore, the counsel for the petitioner prayed for allowing the appeal by reducing the compensation.

The learned counsel for the claimants, Nataraj Ballal relied on the law laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of National Insurance Co. Ltd v. Pranay Sethi, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1270, in which it was held that in case the deceased was having a permanent job and was below the age of 40 years, an addition of 50 percent of the established income should be made. Further, as per the said decision, while calculating the “loss of dependency”, the age of the deceased had to be taken into consideration. Hence, the counsel for the claimants submitted that there was no error in the finding of the Tribunal. Therefore, he prayed for dismissal of the appeal.

The Court relied on the decision of Supreme Court in the case of Pranay Sethi, and held that multiplier had to be applied based on the age of the deceased and not based on the age of the mother of the deceased. Moreover, the Court also relied on the case of Magma General Insurance Co. Ltd v. Nanu Ram, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1546 in which it was held that the claimants were entitled to compensation under the head “loss of love and affection”. Therefore, the Insurance Company has erred in taking the multiplier based on the age of deceased instead of based on the age of the mother and that the Tribunal was unjustified in adding 50 percent of the income of the deceased towards loss of future prospects while calculating the “loss of dependency”. Hence, the appeal could not be accepted and was unsustainable.

The appeal was dismissed accordingly.[Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Rathna, 2019 SCC OnLine Kar 566, decided on 29-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Vivek Agarwal, J. while hearing two miscellaneous appeals analogously, refused to exonerate the Insurance Company and modified the impugned award of the claimant by an enhancement of Rs 70,378/-.

A miscellaneous appeal was filed by New India Insurance Company Limited challenging the award dated 04-02-2015 on two grounds, namely that the driver of the offending vehicle was not having licence to drive a commercial vehicle, namely ‘Vikram’ bearing No. MP-07-R-1602 and therefore, Insurance Company should have been exonerated of its liability and secondly, the accident took place when the claimant Faiziya Khan was crossing the road and therefore, aspect of contributory negligence should have been taken into consideration. While, the appellant-Faiziya Khan, had filed an appeal to enhance the award passed in order to compensate her for her injuries.

The learned counsel for the insurance company, Mr Shrinivas Gajendragadkar, put forth a two-fold argument that firstly, the driver of the offending vehicle did not have a license to drive a commercial vehicle; and secondly, that the claimant was negligent in crossing the road. The counsel further relied upon Halki Bai v. Managing Director, Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation, 2004(3) T.A.C. 821(M.P.), to support his contention that since claimant was crossing the road negligently, therefore, it will be a case of contributory negligence. The claimant, Faiziya Khan, on the other hand, maintained that the award passed in her favor was inadequate as compared to her injuries and pains and needed to be enhanced.

The Court dismissed the appeal by the insurance company observing that the Halki Bai v. Managing Director, Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation, 2004 (3) T.A.C. 821(M.P.), was not applicable here as in the present case it has been mentioned in a report that the accident took place due to fault in the steering of auto. In view thereof, it was held that there was no contributory negligence on the part of the claimant.

The Court also cited Mukund Dewangan v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., (2017) 14 SCC 663 in which the Court had held that if a driver is holding the license to drive a light motor vehicle, he can drive a transport vehicle of such class without any endorsement. By relying on the aforementioned judgment, the Court refused to exonerate the Insurance Company on the lack of endorsement of the driver.

Ruling on the claimant’s appeal, the Court modified the impugned award by enhancement of Rs 70,378 in favor of the claimant by increasing the compensation for livelihood, transport and future treatment.[New India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Mohd. Ajiz, 2019 SCC OnLine MP 818, decided on 08-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of S. Kumar, J. dismissed an appeal filed by the insurance company against the judgment and award passed by Motor Vehicle Accident Claim Tribunal, Bihar.

The son of claimant died on the spot when a vehicle dashed against him. As a result, he filed a complaint against the driver (Opposite Party 2) under Sections 279 and 304-A of the Penal Code, 1860. The offending vehicle was insured with the New India Assurance Company Ltd. (Opposite Party 3) and the claimant made claim for payment of compensation amount Rs 6 lakhs. The District Judge-cum-Motor Vehicle Tribunal granted compensation of Rs 3,65,000 to the claimant. Aggrieved by the quantum of compensation granted, the New India Assurance Company Ltd. filed an appeal against said judgment and award.

The Court dismissed the appeal placing reliance on the judgment of Apex Court in Reshma Kumari v. Madan Mohan, (2013) 9 SCC 65, and held, “the claimants are entitled for compensation of the amount as granted by the Tribunal and not inclined to interfere with the quantum of compensation amount granted by the Tribunal.” It also directed the insurance company to pay the amount of compensation to the claimant, with an interest at 6 per cent from the date of filing of the claim application till its realization within two months, from the date of receipt of the order passed by the Court. [New India Assurance Company Ltd. v. Amiri Khatoon, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 630, Order dated 06-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: This appeal was filed before a Single Judge Bench of Rohit Arya, J., under Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 against the impugned order passed by Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal (Shajapur).

Facts of the case were that deceased met with an accident caused by the rash and negligent driving of respondent thereby causing their death. The respondent’s vehicle was insured with Insurance Company (Respondent 3). The claimant brought before Court the salary earned by deceased at the time of his death i.e. Rs 3,500. The claimant suffered not only the loss of love and affection of their family member but also financial constraints. The claimants were aggrieved by the meager compensation awarded by the Tribunal and prayed for its enhancement. The issue before the court was whether the compensation awarded by Tribunal of Rs 2,41,000 was justified.

Insurance company supported the award of compensation passed by Tribunal to be just, appropriate and proper with no requirement of enhancement. The High Court was of the view that impugned award was not assessed properly, being on the lower side it needed to be enhanced taking into consideration the age, dependency of the deceased and his future prospects. Court found it appropriate to deduct 1/3 instead of 1/2 towards personal expenses of the deceased. On viewing that Tribunal did not award compensation under the head ‘future prospects’, compensation was granted under the above head. Therefore, the appeal was allowed and award of compensation was enhanced to Rs 2,44,000. [Samrat v. Manish,2018 SCC OnLine MP 833, order dated 16-11-2018]