Supreme Court: A.M. Khanwilkar, J. delivered the judgment for CJ Dipak Misra and himself whereby the matter concerning the liability of the insurer to pay compensation in a motor accident claim was remanded back to the Allahabad High Court.
Respondents 1-5 filed a claim before the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal consequent to the death of one Sanoj Kumar. The deceased was going for morning walk when he was hit by a Bolero loader driven in a rash and negligent manner. The Tribunal absolved the liability of the insurer – Oriental Insurance Co. – on the finding that the driver of the said vehicle did not have a valid driving licence. However, the insurer was directed to compensation amount as determined with a liberty to recover the same from the owner and driver of the vehicle The said decision was affirmed by the High Court. Being aggrieved, the appellant – owner of the vehicle – filed the instant appeal.
The question before the Supreme Court was that ‘whether the Tribunal was right in holding that the insurer was not liable as the driver had a fake licence?’ The Court referred PEPSU Road Transport Corpn. v. National Insurance Co., (2013) 10 SCC 217 and Premkumari v. Prahlad Dev, (2008) 3 SCC 193. It was observed to be well established that if the owner was aware of the fact that the licence was fake and still permitted the driver to drive the vehicle, then the insurer’s liability would stand absolved. However, the mere fact that the driving licence is fake, per se, would not absolve the liability of the insurer. It was noticed that, in the present case, neither the Tribunal nor the High Court made any attempt to analyse as to whether the appellant was aware of the fake driving licence possessed by the driver. In such circumstances, the Court deemed it appropriate to relegate the parties before the High Court for fresh consideration of the matter only on question of liability of the owner or of the insurer to pay compensation. The appeal was disposed of in the terms above. [Ram Chandra Singh v. Rajaram,2018 SCC OnLine SC 959, dated 14-08-2018]