Del HC | Non-possession of valid driving license by itself is no reason for not granting compensation if accident proved to be caused by rash and negligent driving of offender

Delhi High Court: Najmi Waziri, J. dismissed an appeal filed by the insurer against the award of compensation made by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, and also rejected insurer’s claim to recover the amount so awarded from the owner of the offending vehicle.

The insurer, represented by Hetu Arora Sethi, Advocate impugned the award of compensation on the ground, inter alia, that the deceased (a minor) was not holding a valid driving license at the time of the accident and was liable for contributory negligence.

Perusing the record and noting the arguments on the issue, dealt with by the Tribunal, the High Court observed: “Non-possession of the driving license by itself would not be a reason for not granting the award of compensation, if it is proven that the accident was on account of rash and negligent driving of the offending vehicle.” The High Court was of the opinion that the rashness and negligence of the offending vehicle had been duly established in terms of the facts and reasoning of the impugned order.

Relying on Sudhir Kumar v. Surinder Singh, (2008) 12 SCC 436, the Court reached the conclusion that the rationale of the impugned order could not be faulted because the negligence of the offending vehicle was evidently much larger than that of the deceased motorcyclist. The offending vehicle was imprudently being driven, i.e. in a rash and negligent manner, as stated by the eyewitness — the pillion rider. Accordingly, the argument regarding apportionment of liability too was rejected.

The insurer lastly contended that the right of recovery was not granted to them although the driver was not holding a valid driving license for the insured vehicle which was a goods-carrier/ transport vehicle; the driver possessed a license only for a Light Motor Vehicle and motorcycle. It was noted that this issue has been referred to a 3-Judge Bench by the Supreme Court in Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Rambha Devi, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 3325. However, the High Court held that till the disposal of the said matter, the issue is governed by Mukund Dewangan v. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., (2017) 14 SCC 663, which held that “there is no requirement to obtain separate endorsement to drive transport vehicle, and if a driver is holding license to drive light motor vehicle, he can drive transport vehicle of such class without any endorsement to that effect.”

Resultantly, the appeal was dismissed.[National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Sushila, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 10045, decided on 21-08-2019]

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