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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 9929-30 OF 2014 (ARISING OUT OF SLP (CIVIL) NOS…29128-29129 OF 2014 (CC NOS.4232-4233 OF 2014) KULWANT SINGH & ORS. ..... APPELLANTS VERSUS ORIENTAL INSURANCE COMPANY LTD. ..... RESPONDENTS

                                                              NON-REPORTABLE


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                     CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 9927-28  OF 2014
             (ARISING OUT OF SLP (CIVIL) NOS.1499-1500 OF 2014)

                                    WITH

                     CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 9929-30  OF 2014
             (ARISING OUT OF SLP (CIVIL) NOS…29128-29129 OF 2014
                         (CC NOS.4232-4233 OF 2014)


KULWANT SINGH  & ORS.                               ..... APPELLANTS

VERSUS

ORIENTAL INSURANCE COMPANY LTD.           ..... RESPONDENTS



                               J U D G M E N T


ADARSH KUMAR GOEL J.


1.    Delay condoned in SLP (C) No………of 2014 [CC. Nos.4232-4233 of 2014].
2.    Leave granted in all the matters.
3.    These appeals have been preferred against common  judgment  and  Order
dated 5th August, 2011 in MAC Appeal Nos.70 and 68 of  2011  and  dated  8th
March, 2013 in Review Petition Nos.793 and 776 of 2011 respectively  of  the
High Court of Delhi at New Delhi.
4.    The  question  raised  for  consideration  is  whether  the  Insurance
Company  is  entitled  to  recovery  rights  on  the  ground  of  breach  of
conditions of insurance policy  when  the  driver  possesses  valid  driving
licence for driving light  vehicle  but  fails  to  obtain  endorsement  for
driving goods vehicle.
5.    The  claim  petition  was  filed  before  the  Motor  Accident  Claims
Tribunal by the dependents of the deceased Rizwan S/o Kadir  @  Abdul  Kadir
who died in a road accident on 8th October, 2005 at about 05.30  A.M.  while
driving Tempo No.HR-G-5234 which was  hit  by  a  Tempo  (Tata-407)  bearing
No.DL-1L-D3186.  The  Tribunal  held  that  the  death  was  on  account  of
negligence of the driver of the offending Tempo (Tata-407) bearing No.DL-1L-
D3186 and the claimants were entitled  to  compensation.   The  vehicle  was
insured with the Insurance Company and the driver was having  valid  driving
licence.  The offending vehicle was ‘light goods  vehicle’.   The  Insurance
Company preferred an appeal before the High Court with the plea that it  was
entitled to recovery rights as the driving licence (Exhibit  R3W1)  was  for
driving ‘light motor vehicle’.  It could not be equated  with  ‘light  goods
vehicle’.  The High Court observed :
“Driving licence of the driver was for driving a light  motor  vehicle.   In
no manner can it be said that a light motor vehicle can be  equated  with  a
light goods vehicle.  In this scenario, it is clear that there was a  breach
of the policy condition and driver of the vehicle did not have a  valid  and
effective driving licence at the time  of  the  accident.   Recovery  rights
should have been granted by the Tribunal against the owner.   The  award  is
modified.  Recovery rights are granted in favour of the Insurance Company.”

6.    Aggrieved by the  Judgment  of  the  High  Court,  the  appellants-the
owners of the vehicle in question have come up before this Court.
7.    Learned counsel for the  appellants  submitted  that  the  High  Court
erred in holding that licence for driving light motor vehicle  entitled  the
driver to drive ‘light goods vehicle’.  Reliance  has  been  placed  on  the
Judgments of this Court in S. Iyyapan vs.  United  India  Insurance  Company
Limited and Another[1] and  National  Insurance  Company  Ltd.  vs.  Annappa
Irappa Nesaria Alias Nesearagi and Others[2] .  Thus, there  was  no  breach
of policy entitling the Insurance Company to  recovery  rights  against  the
owner.  Learned counsel for the Insurance Company supported the  view  taken
by the High Court.
8.    We have considered the rival submissions  and  perused  the  judgments
relied upon.
9.    We find the judgments relied upon cover the issue  in  favour  of  the
appellants.      In Annappa Irappa Nesaria (supra), this Court  referred  to
the provisions of Section 2(21) and (23) of the Motor  Vehicles  Act,  1988,
which are definitions of ‘light motor vehicle’ and  ‘medium  goods  vehicle’
respectively and the rules prescribing the forms for the licence, i.e.  Rule
14 and Form No.4.  It was concluded :
“20. From what has been noticed hereinbefore, it is evident that  “transport
vehicle” has now been substituted for  “medium  goods  vehicle”  and  “heavy
goods vehicle”. The light motor vehicle continued, at the relevant point  of
time to cover both “light  passenger  carriage  vehicle”  and  “light  goods
carriage vehicle”. A driver who had a valid licence to drive a  light  motor
vehicle, therefore, was authorised to drive a light goods vehicle as well.”

10.   In S. Iyyapan (supra), the question was whether the driver who  had  a
licence to drive ‘light motor vehicle’ could  drive  ‘light  motor  vehicle’
used as a commercial vehicle,  without  obtaining  endorsement  to  drive  a
commercial vehicle.  It was held that in such a case, the Insurance  Company
could not disown its liability.  It was observed :
“18. In the instant case, admittedly the driver was holding a valid  driving
licence to drive light motor vehicle. There is no  dispute  that  the  motor
vehicle in question, by which accident took place, was  Mahindra  Maxi  Cab.
Merely because the driver  did  not  get  any  endorsement  in  the  driving
licence to drive Mahindra Maxi Cab, which is  a  light  motor  vehicle,  the
High Court has committed grave error of law in holding that the  insurer  is
not liable to pay compensation  because  the  driver  was  not  holding  the
licence to drive the commercial vehicle. The impugned judgment (Civil  Misc.
Appeal No.1016 of 2002, order dated 31.10.2008 (Mad)  is, therefore,  liable
to be set aside.”

No contrary view has been brought to our notice.
Accordingly, we are of the view that there was no breach  of  any  condition
of insurance policy, in the present case, entitling  the  Insurance  Company
to recovery rights.
Accordingly, we allow these appeals, set aside the  impugned  order  of  the
High Court and restore that of the Tribunal.  There will be no order  as  to
costs.

                                                          ……..…………………………….J.
                                                         [ V. GOPALA GOWDA ]

                                                         .….………………………………..J.
NEW DELHI                                [ ADARSH KUMAR GOEL ]
October 28, 2014
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[1]    (2013) 7 SCC 62
[2]    (2008) 3 SCC 464

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