Showing posts with label accident. Show all posts
Showing posts with label accident. Show all posts

27 September 2020

Rules of pleadings do not strictly apply to petition for motor vehicle accident claim because tribunal can also initiate suo motu proceeding whithout there being any pleading

Once the actual occurrence of the accident, has been established, then the Tribunal’s role would be to calculate the quantum of just compensation if the accident had taken place by reason of negligence of the driver of a motor vehicle.

    We have no hesitation in observing that such a hyper technical and trivial approach of the High Court cannot be sustained in a case for compensation under the Act, in connection with a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death of a family member. Recently, in Mangla Ram Vs. Oriental Insurance Company Limited and Ors., (to which one of us, Khanwilkar, J. was a party), this Court has restated the position as to the approach to be adopted in accident claim cases. In that case, the Court was dealing with a case of an accident between a motorcycle and a jeep, where the Tribunal had relied upon the FIR and charge­ sheet, as well as the accompanying statements of the complainant and witnesses, to opine that the police records confirmed the occurrence of an accident and also the identity of the offending jeep but the High Court had overturned that finding inter alia on the ground that the oral evidence supporting such a finding had been discarded by the Tribunal itself and that reliance solely on the document forming part of the police record was insufficient to arrive at such a finding. Disapproving that approach, this Court, after adverting to multitude of cases under the Act, noted as follows:

“22. The question is: Whether this approach of the High Court can be sustained in law? While dealing with a similar situation, this Court in Bimla Devi noted the defence of the driver and conductor of the bus which inter alia was to cast a doubt on the police record indicating that the person standing at the rear side of the bus, suffered head injury when the bus was being reversed without blowing any horn. This Court observed that while dealing with the claim petition in terms of Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, the Tribunal stricto sensu is not bound by the pleadings of the parties, its function is to determine the amount of fair compensation. In paras 11­15, the Court observed thus: (SCC pp. 533­34) 

“11. While dealing with a claim petition in terms of Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, a tribunal stricto sensu is not bound by the pleadings of the parties; its function being to determine the amount of fair compensation in the event an accident has taken place by reason of negligence of that driver of a motor vehicle. It is true that occurrence of an accident having regard to the provisions contained in Section 166 of the Act is a sine qua non for entertaining a claim petition but that would not mean that despite evidence to the effect that death of the claimant’s predecessor had taken place by reason of an accident caused by a motor vehicle, the same would be ignored only on the basis of a post­mortem report vis­à­vis the averments made in a claim petition.

12. The deceased was a constable. Death took place near a police station. The post­mortem report clearly suggests that the deceased died of a brain injury. The place of accident is not far from the police station. It is, therefore, difficult to believe the story of the driver of the bus that he slept in the bus and in the morning found a dead body wrapped in a blanket. If the death of the constable had taken place earlier, it is wholly unlikely that his dead body in a small town like Dharampur would remain undetected throughout the night particularly when it was lying at a bus­stand and near a police station. In such an event, the Court can presume that the police officers themselves should have taken possession of the dead body.

13. The learned Tribunal, in our opinion, has rightly proceeded on the basis that apparently there was absolutely no reason to falsely implicate Respondents 2 and 3. The claimant was not at the place of occurrence. She, therefore, might not be aware of the details as to how the accident took place but the fact that the first information report had been lodged in relation to an accident could not have been ignored.

14. Some discrepancies in the evidence of the claimant’s witnesses might have occurred but the core question before the Tribunal and consequently before the High Court was as to whether the bus in question was involved in the accident or not. For the purpose of determining the said issue, the Court was required to apply the principle underlying the burden of proof in terms of the provisions of Section 106 of the Evidence Act, 1872 as to whether a dead body wrapped in a blanket had been found at the spot at such an early hour, which was required to be proved by Respondents 2 and 3.

15. In a situation of this nature, the Tribunal has rightly taken a holistic view of the matter. It was necessary to be borne in mind that strict proof of an accident caused by a particular bus in a particular manner may not be possible to be done by the claimants. The claimants were merely to establish their case on the touchstone of preponderance of probability. The standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt could not have been applied. For the said purpose, the High Court should have taken into consideration the respective stories set forth by both the parties.” (emphasis supplied)

    The Court restated the legal position that the claimants were merely to establish their case on the touchstone of preponderance of probability and standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt cannot be applied by the Tribunal while dealing with the motor accident cases. Even in that case, the view taken by the High Court to reverse similar findings, recorded by the Tribunal was set aside.

24 September 2020

If charge sheet is not corroborating with the facts stated in the Motor Vehicle Accident Claim Petition, then the Tribunal should not considered the Claim Petition at all

The entire facts and circumstances raises a doubt in the mind of the Court. As far as the accident claims are concerned, the facts must be unambiguous. Even in case, there is a loss of memory or the claimant due to the injury, unable to provide the correct vehicle number, at least the Police Investigation should reveal the accident occurring time and the place specified as in the Claim Petition. If the charge sheet of the Police is not corroborating with the facts stated in the Claim Petition, then the Tribunal ought not to have considered the Claim Petition at all. In most of the cases, the facts stated in the FIR has been taken for consideration to establish the accident. But, in the present case, even after the investigation and filing of the charge sheet, Police officials deposed that the facts stated in the Claim Petition is mistaken facts. This being the Primafacie case established before the Tribunal, the Tribunal has not appreciated the contradiction in the Claim Petition as well as in the FIR and the Charge sheet filed by the Police. The deposition of Mr.Raja cannot be taken as a valid evidence, in view of the fact that he is an interested witness. However, the FIR and the Charge sheet cannot be neglected and it is to be given due weightage. If the basic facts regarding the accidents are not corroborating with the FIR as well as the charge sheet filed by the Police, then there is every reason to disbelieve the case of the respondent/claimant. This Court is of the considered opinion that many number of false claims are filed, processed and the Tribunals are also awarding compensation in a routine manner. Though the issues were dealt on several occasions by the Hon'ble High Court as well as by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, still such false claims are being noticed. Full Proof System in the matter of accident claims are necessary in order to avoid the bogus and fraudulent claims. This apart, unethical practices in settlement of claims are to be eradicated in order to protect the interest of the genuine accident victims. Undoubtedly, the accident victims are to be provided medical treatment immediately and 'just compensation' is to be granted without any lapse of time. The very purpose and object of the statute is to ensure speedy remedy to the accident victims. However, such things are not happening on account of various corrupt practices in the process of settling the compensation. Courts are also struggling to minimize such irregularities and illegalities. In the process of rectification, Court can make suggestions and issue directions to improve the system, so as to minimize the level of corruption and any other illegal activities in Motor Accident cases. This being the factum and the case of false claims are brought to the notice of the Courts, the Hon'ble High Court and the Hon’ble Supreme Court, on several occasions, issued directions, so as to ensure the genuine claimants receive compensation at the earlier point of time in accordance with law.[Para No.10]

If charge sheet is not corroborating with the facts stated in the Motor Vehicle Accident Claim Petition, then the Tribunal should not considered the Claim Petition at all

    Both the above provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 unambiguously reveals that the Police officer, on receipt of information regarding any accident involving death or bodily injured to any person, has to register the F.I.R and conduct investigation and submit a report and such a report is to be communicated to the Claims Tribunal as well as the insurer and the copy should be made available to the owner of the vehicle also. The above statutory provisions is crystal clear that the duty of the Police officer to prepare the Accident Information Report and the detailed accident report and communicate the report to the Tribunal and Insurance company and thereafter, the Claims Tribunal under Section 166(4) of the Act shall treat the report of Accidents forwarded to the Tribunal as an application under Sub-Section (6) of Section 158 for compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act.[Para No.15]

15 August 2020

Insurance company is not liable to pay compensation for death of third party if vehicle is used as a weapon to murder by crushing down

Whether the brutal killing of two persons by the 7 th Respondent/Driver (who has been found guilty of murder under Section 302 IPC and has been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Trial Court) using the Truck as a weapon and crushing them down, could be treated as an 'accident' or as 'out of the use of a motor vehicle' so as to award compensation to the legal representatives of the deceased, on the strength of a policy issued by the Appellant-Insurer? The finding of the Tribunal that the said incident is an accident and the Appellant/Insurer is liable to pay the compensation, is put to challenge in these appeals.[Para No.1]

    Coming to the scope for payment of compensation under the MV Act and the coverage of third party risk, Chapter XI has been provided for insurance of the motor vehicles against the third party risk. Section 146 speaks about the necessity for insurance against third party risk to the effect that no person shall use, except as a passenger, or cause or allow any other person to use, a motor vehicle in a public place, unless there is in force in relation to the use of the vehicle by that person or that other person, as the case may be, a policy of insurance complying with the requirements of the said Chapter. The requirements of policy and limits of liability have been mentioned under Section 147 of the MV Act; whereas the duty of the insurers to satisfy judgments against persons insured in respect of third party risk has been dealt with under Section 149 of the MV Act.[Para No.11]

    As mentioned already, on occurrence of an accident involving use of a motor vehicle, compensation can be claimed either under Section 163A of the MV Act on the basis of a structured formula (where it is not necessary for the Claimants to plead or prove negligence on the part of the Driver or the Owner) or under Section 166 of the MV Act by proving the negligence on the part of the Driver of the offending vehicle. It is quite possible that in a given case, 'murder' can be an 'accident'. If only it amounts to an 'accident', can it lead to a claim petition, to be filed by the Claimants, seeking compensation in respect of such accident because of the use of the motor vehicle either under Section 163A or under Section 166 of the MV Act. The Claims Tribunal envisaged under Section 165 of the MV Act names the Tribunal as 'Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal' and if it is not an accident, no such claim can be held as maintainable, to be entertained by the Tribunal.[Para No.12]

Insurance company is not liable to pay compensation for death of third party if vehicle is used as a weapon to murder by crushing down
    The question whether a murder can be an accident in a given case had come up for consideration before the Apex Court in Rita Devi (supra). It was a case where some unknown passengers hired an Autorickshaw from an autostand at Dimapur and later, the vehicle was reported stolen and the dead body of the Driver was recovered by the Police on the next day. The Autorickshaw was never recovered and the claim of the owner for the loss of Autorickshaw was considered and sanctioned by the Insurer, satisfying the amount for which it was settled. A claim petition was filed by the legal representatives of the deceased Driver under Section 163A of the MV Act, claiming compensation for the death as having arisen out of and in the course of his employment. The Tribunal held that it was caused by 'accident' coming within the purview of the MV Act and the owner and the Insurer were liable. The Insurance Company took up the matter before the High Court where it was held that there was no motor accident as contemplated under the MV Act and that it was an act of murder. Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and the award passed by the Tribunal was set aside. This led to the proceedings before the Apex Court where the question was subjected to a threadbare analysis; particularly on the point of 'dominant intention'. The Apex Court observed that there are instances where murder can be by accident on a given set of facts and that the difference between a murder 'which is not an accident' and a murder 'which is an accident' depends upon the proximity of the cause of murder. The Apex Court held that if the 'dominant intention' of the act of felony is to kill any particular person, then such killing is not an accidental murder but a 'murder simplicitor'; whereas, in a case where act of murder was originally not intended and the same was caused in furtherance of any other felonious act, then such murder is an 'accidental murder'.[Para No.13]

10 August 2020

Insurance company is not liable to pay compensation to the claimants if cheque of premium issued by vehicle-owner is dishonored before the date of accident

On perusal of the entire record, it is not in dispute that respondent No.6, owner of the offending vehicle, has issued the cheque on 28.02.2014 for Rs.42,335/- towards payment of premium in respect of the offending vehicle. Pursuant to the same, the Insurer has issued a cover note on the very same day. The Insurer deposited the said cheque with its banker on 10.03.2014 for encashment, but the same was dishonoured on 11.03.2014. The same was informed to the Insurer vide cheque return memo dated 11.03.2014. Thereafter, the Insurer has addressed Ex.B5 - letter dated 13.03.2014 to the owner by sending the same through registered post with acknowledgment due to the address furnished by the owner while issuing Ex.B1 - cover note. A copy of Ex.B5 was marked to the RTO informing about the dishonour of cheque as well as cancellation of cover note. The said letter was received by the owner vide Ex.B6, while the RTO under Ex.B7. In Ex.B6 - postal acknowledgment card, there is a signature in proof of receipt of Ex.B5 - letter. It further discloses that the article was booked vide RLAD No.RM838996406IN. The learned counsel for the claimants would contend that signature on Ex.B6 does not belong to respondent No.6 and, therefore, he has not received Ex.B5 - letter. But, the said contention cannot be accepted in view of Exs.B1, B5 and B6. Admittedly, Ex.B5 was sent to the address furnished by the owner under Ex.B1.[Para No.26]

Insurance company is not liable to pay compensation to the claimants if cheque of premium issued by vehicle-owner is dishonored before the date of accident
    From the above discussion, it is clear that the cheque issued under Ex.B2 was dishonoured and consequently Ex.B1, cover-note was cancelled by the Insurer. The Insurer also intimated about the dishonour of cheque as well as cancellation of policy to the owner as well as RTO by addressing a letter under Ex.B5 and the said letter was received by the owner under Ex.B6 while Ex.B7 discloses receipt of Ex.B5 letter by the RTO. Thus, there is no valid policy exists as on the date of accident i.e., 04.05.2014. Section 64-VB of the Insurance Act also says that no risk to be assumed unless premium is received in advance. In the present case, the Insurer has not received the premium and, therefore, the Insurer shall not assume any risk. As such, the Insurer is not liable to pay compensation to the claimants - legal heirs of the deceased.[Para No.31]

    As already discussed above, the accident is not in dispute. The claim was under Section 163A of the M.V. Act. The policy was cancelled as on the date of accident i.e., 04.05.2014. The policy was not in force as on the date of accident. Therefore, the appellant - Insurer is not liable to pay compensation to the claimants. It is respondent No.6, owner of the vehicle who is liable to pay compensation to the claimants. Thus, the finding of the Tribunal that the appellant - Insurer has to pay the compensation at the first place and recover the same from the owner is unsustainable.[Para No.37]

22 July 2020

Party, who is guilty of protracting the litigation, is not entitled to interest

It is not in dispute that while the claim petition was pending before the Tribunal, the claimants in the month of June 2013 filed a transfer petition seeking transfer of the claim petition from MACT, Kishtwar to MACT, Jammu which was finally dismissed as not pressed by this Court vide order dated 18.02.2016. The said transfer petition, thus, remained pending for almost three years and during this period, the proceedings in the claim petition remained stayed. According to learned counsel for the insurer, no interest should have been paid for this period as the claimants cannot be given the benefit of their own wrong.[Page No.35]

    Per contra, Mr. Bhat submits that the interest awarded by the Tribunal is not a penal interest, but is only a compensation for the amount withheld and, therefore, the Tribunal was right in awarding interest even for the aforesaid period when the proceedings in the claim petition remained suspended. Reliance is placed upon the judgment of Hon‟ble Supreme Court rendered in the case of Alok Shankar Pandey v. Union of India (AIR 2007 SC 1198) [Para No.36]

Party, who is guilty of protracting the litigation, is not entitled  to interest

  I have given my thoughtful consideration to the plea raised and am of the view that, although in the commercial parlance, the interest is ordinarily not a penalty or punishment, but is a normal accretion on capital, yet the same cannot be applied in the cases of claims under the Motor Vehicles Act. Granting interest to a party, who is guilty of protracting the litigation, would be encouraging the parties to indulge in unnecessarily delaying the litigation. It is well settled that a person cannot be permitted to take the benefit of his own wrong. In the instant case, determination of compensation by the Tribunal was delayed by almost three years due to filing of a transfer petition by the claimants which later on was not pressed and was dismissed by this Court. In that view of the matter, I am inclined to accept the submission of learned counsel for the insurer that the claimants should not be held entitled to interest for the period from June 2013 to 18th February 2016. In the light of discussion made hereinabove the appeal of the insurer is partly allowed and the award is modified to the following extent.[Page No.37]

09 May 2020

Disability Certificate is a public document which can not be doubted

 Motor Vehicle Accident Claim - how to appreciate Disability Certificate and how to fix quantum of compensation?

    Disability certificate issued by the Medical Board of Government Medical College is a public document, it cannot be doubted.

Disability-certificate   The disablement certificate issued by the Medical Board of a Government Medical College is a public document. The disablement of 50% as in the certificate is to be supported by other evidence either documentary or oral for the purpose of strengthening the cause before an appropriate court of law.[Para No.24 & 25] 

    The law with respect to the grant of compensation in injury cases is well-settled. The injured is entitled to pecuniary as well as non-pecuniary damages. Pecuniary damages also known as special damages are generally designed to make good the pecuniary loss which is capable of being calculated in terms of money whereas non-pecuniary damages are incapable of being assessed by arithmetical calculations. The pecuniary or special damages, generally include the expenses incurred by the claimants on his treatment, special diet, conveyance, cost of nursing/attending, loss of income, loss of earning capacity and other material loss, which may require any special treatment or aid to the insured for the rest of his life. The general damages or the non-pecuniary loss include the compensation for mental or physical shock, pain, suffering, loss of amenities of life, disfiguration, loss of marriage prospects, loss of expected or earning of life, inconvenience, hardship, disappointment, frustration, mental stress, dejectment and unhappiness in future life, etc.[Para No.9]

01 May 2020

Insurance company not liable when vehicle is driven by unauthorized driver

Motor Vehicle Accident  Petition - Sec. 165, 168, 174, 149(2) of The Motor Vehicle Act - Accident by unauthorized driver - breach of policy - liability of Insurance Company


insurance-company-not-liable   Mere producing of valid insurance certificate, in respect of offending truck is not enough for the owner to make insurance company liable to discharge liability arising from rash and negligent driving by the driver of the vehicle. The insurance company can be fastened with the liability on the basis of the valid insurance policy only after basic facts are pleaded and established that the vehicle was not only duly insured but also that it was driven by anauthorized person having a valid driving license. The insurance company would become liable only after such foundational facts are pleaded and proved by the other side.

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