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Thursday, July 14, 2016

whether the High Court was justified in exonerating the Insurance Company from the liability on the ground that the driver of the offending vehicle did not possess valid license? - due to non filing of original licence - as the original was filed in criminal case on the file of JFCM =since the driver of the offending vehicle did not possess a valid license to drive the vehicle because he failed to file the original one and filed its photocopy, the Insurance Company cannot be held liable to pay the awarded sum. - Apex court held No - In our considered opinion, the Tribunal was right in holding that the driver of the offending vehicle possessed a valid driving license at the time of accident and that the Insurance Company failed to adduce any evidence to prove otherwise. - This finding of the Tribunal, in our view, should not have been set aside by the High Court for the following reasons:- First, the driver of the offending vehicle (N.A.-2) proved his driving license (Exhibit-R1) in his evidence. Second, when the license was proved, the Insurance Company did not raise any objection about its admissibility or manner of proving. Third, even if any objection had been raised, it would have had no merit because it has come on record that the original driving license was filed by the driver in the Court of Judicial Magistrate First class, Naraingarh in a criminal case arising out of the same accident. Fourth, in any event, once the license was proved by the driver and marked in evidence and without there being any objection by the Insurance Company, the Insurance Company had no right to raise any objection about the admissibility and manner of proving of the license at a later stage (See Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. Vs. Premlata Shukla & Ors., (2007) 13 SCC 476) and lastly, the Insurance Company failed to adduce any evidence to prove that the driving license (Ex.R1) was either fake or invalid for some reason.- the High court was not right in reversing the finding of the Tribunal. Indeed, the High Court should have taken note of these reasons which, in our view, were germane for deciding the issue of liability of the Insurance Company arising out of the accident.- we hold that the driver of the offending vehicle was holding a valid driving license (Exhibit-R1) at the time of accident and since the Insurance Company failed to prove otherwise, it was liable to pay the compensation awarded by the Tribunal and enhanced by the High Court. - Impugned order in so far as it relates to exonerating of the Insurance Company from the liability to pay the compensation is set aside and the Insurance Company (Respondent No.1) is held liable to pay the compensation awarded by the Tribunal and enhanced by the High Court jointly and severally along with the driver and owner of the offending vehicle.

                                                                  REPORTABLE
                            IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                             CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                         CIVIL APPEAL Nos.  6199-6202  OF 2016
                  (ARISING OUT OF SLP (C) Nos.33036-33039 of 2015)


Rakesh Kumar     & Etc. Etc.      …….Appellant(s)


                             VERSUS


United India Insurance Company
Ltd. & Ors. Etc.Etc.                    ……Respondent(s)


                               J U D G M E N T

Abhay Manohar Sapre, J.
1.    Leave granted.
2.    These appeals are filed against the common final  judgment  and  order
dated 22.05.2014  passed  by  the  High  Court  of  Punjab  and  Haryana  at
Chandigarh in F.A.O. Nos. 6935, 6937, 6977 of 2011 and  907  of  2012  (O&M)
wherein the High Court partly allowed the appeals of the  Insurance  Company
and reversed the  award  dated  13.09.2011  of  the  Motor  Accident  Claims
Tribunal, Ambala  in MACT Case Nos. 97, 109 of  2008  and  28  of  2009  and
exonerated the Insurance Company from  the  liability  arising  out  of  the
accident.
3.    Facts of the case  lie  in  a  narrow  compass.  They,  however,  need
mention in brief  to  appreciate  the  short  controversy  involved  in  the
appeals.
4.    On 16.09.2008, Sheo Ram, Madan Mohan,  and Mohindro  Devi  along  with
others were traveling in a three wheeler bearing Registration  No.  PH-11TC-
468 from Naraingarh to  Shahzadpur.   Madan  Mohan  was  driving  the  three
wheeler on the left side of the road.  At about 10.30 a.m., when  the  three
wheeler reached near Bus stop of Village Bharanpur on Naraingarh  Shahzadpur
Road, a truck bearing Registration No. HR-37-C-7937,  which  came  from  the
opposite side, struck the three wheeler.   Though  its  driver  Madan  Mohan
tried to avoid the accident by taking his vehicle on the extreme  left  side
of the road, yet all the occupants of the three  wheeler  suffered  multiple
injuries.  The injured were taken to Civil Hospital, Naraingarh  in  private
vehicles.  Thereafter, Sheo Ram was referred  to  PGI  Chandigarh  where  he
succumbed to his injuries.   A  criminal  case  bearing  FIR  No.  88  dated
16.09.2008 was registered against Jaipal, driver of Truck  No.  HR-37-C-7937
at the Police Station, Shahzadpur, District Ambala  for  the  commission  of
offence punishable under Sections 279/337/304-A of the  Indian  Penal  Code,
1860  (hereinafter  referred  to  as  “the  Code”).   Madan  Mohan,  another
injured, who was driver of the  three  wheeler  also  died  later  at  Civil
Hospital, Naraingarh.  Smt. Mohindro Devi, the third injured, also  suffered
a number of injuries in the accident and  was  shifted  to  Civil  Hospital,
Naraingarh but later she also died.
5.    The legal representatives of Sheo Ram filed claim petition being  MACT
Case No. 97/2008, the   legal representatives of  Madan  Mohan  filed  claim
petition being MACT Case No.  109  of  2008  and  legal  representatives  of
Mohindro Devi filed claim petition being MACT Case No.  28  of  2009  before
the MACT (in short “the Tribunal”), Ambala under Section 166  of  the  Motor
Vehicle Act, 1988  against  the  owner,  driver  and  insurer  of  offending
vehicle,  i.e.,  HR-37-C-7937   claiming   compensation   for   a   sum   of
Rs.20,00,000/-, Rs.20,00,000/-and Rs.10,00,000/- respectively.
6.    It was contested  by  the  non-applicants.   One  of  the  defence  of
Insurance Company (R-3  therein)  was  that  the  driver  of  the  offending
vehicle had no valid and effective license and hence  no  liability  can  be
fastened on the Insurance Company.
7.     The  Tribunal,  vide  common  award  dated  13.09.2011,  allowed  the
petitions filed by the claimants and awarded a sum of Rs.6,05,000/- in  MACT
Case No. 97/2008, Rs.4,56,8000/- in MACT Case No.109 of 2008 and Rs.51,448/-
 in MACT Case No.28 of 2009. It was, inter alia,  held  that  the  Insurance
Company is liable to  pay  compensation  as  the  driver  of  the  offending
vehicle was holding a valid and effective  driving  license.   It  was  also
held that the Insurance Company failed to adduce any evidence  to  prove  to
the contrary.
8.    Challenging the said order,  the  Insurance  Company  filed  FAO  Nos.
6935, 6937 and 6977/2011 and the claimants filed FAO Nos.  906  and  907  of
2012 seeking enhancement of the compensation.
9.    By impugned judgment dated 22.05.2014, the  High  Court  reversed  the
award of the Tribunal in part in the appeals filed by the Insurance  Company
and held that since the driver of the offending vehicle did  not  possess  a
valid license to drive the vehicle because he failed to  file  the  original
one and filed its photocopy, the Insurance Company cannot be held liable  to
pay the awarded sum.  In other words, the High Court held that  the  driving
license was not properly proved and hence it cannot be held that the  driver
was having a valid driving  license.   In  this  view  of  the  matter,  the
Insurance  Company  was  exonerated  from  the  liability  from  paying  the
compensation. However,  the  Insurance  Company  was  directed  to  pay  the
awarded sum to the claimants first and then to recover the awarded sum  from
the owner and driver of the offending vehicle on the principle of  ‘pay  and
recover’.
10.   Challenging the said order, the owner has filed these appeals  by  way
of special leave before this Court.
11.   A short question that arises for consideration  in  these  appeals  is
whether the High Court was justified in exonerating  the  Insurance  Company
from the liability on the ground that the driver of  the  offending  vehicle
did not possess valid license?
 12.   Heard Mr. A. Tewari, learned counsel for the appellant and  Mr.  A.K.
De, learned counsel for respondent No.1.
13.   Submission of Mr. A. Tewari, learned counsel for the appellant,  while
attacking the impugned order was essentially two-fold.
14.   In the first place, learned counsel urged that the  High  Court  erred
in exonerating the Insurance Company from the liability arising out  of  the
accident. He submitted that  the  Tribunal  having  rightly  held  that  the
Insurance Company was liable to pay the compensation  to  the  claimants  as
the driver of offending vehicle was having a valid driving  license  at  the
time of accident and that the vehicle in  question  was  admittedly  insured
with the insurance company, there was no justifiable  reason  for  the  High
Court to have reversed the  finding  of  the  Tribunal  and  exonerated  the
Insurance Company from the liability.
15.   In the second place, learned counsel urged that the High Court  failed
to see that the driver of the offending vehicle had filed the photo copy  of
his driving license, which was also proved  (Exhibit-R  1)  by  him  without
there being any objection of the Insurance Company. Learned counsel  further
pointed out that apart from this, the Insurance  Company  failed  to  adduce
any evidence to prove that the license held by the driver was  fake  or  not
genuine etc.
16.   Learned  counsel  urged  that  the  finding  of  the  High  Court  is,
therefore, not legally sustainable and hence deserves to be  set  aside  and
that of the Tribunal on this issue is liable to be restored.
17.   In reply,  learned counsel for  respondent  No.1  (Insurance  Company)
supported the reasoning of the High Court and contended  that  the  impugned
order should be upheld calling no interference therein.
18.   Having heard the learned counsel for the parties  and  on  perusal  of
the record of the case, we are inclined to accept the submissions  urged  by
the learned counsel for the  appellant  as  in  our  opinion,  they  deserve
acceptance.
19.   In our considered opinion, the Tribunal was right in holding that  the
driver of the offending vehicle possessed a valid  driving  license  at  the
time of accident and  that  the  Insurance  Company  failed  to  adduce  any
evidence to prove otherwise. This finding of  the  Tribunal,  in  our  view,
should not have been set aside by the High Court for the following reasons:
20.   First, the  driver  of  the  offending  vehicle  (N.A.-2)  proved  his
driving license (Exhibit-R1) in his evidence.  Second, when the license  was
proved, the  Insurance  Company  did  not  raise  any  objection  about  its
admissibility or manner of proving.  Third, even if any objection  had  been
raised, it would have had no merit because it has come on  record  that  the
original driving license was filed by the driver in the  Court  of  Judicial
Magistrate First class, Naraingarh in a criminal case  arising  out  of  the
same accident. Fourth, in any event, once the  license  was  proved  by  the
driver and marked in evidence and without there being any objection  by  the
Insurance Company,   the  Insurance  Company  had  no  right  to  raise  any
objection about the admissibility and manner of proving of the license at  a
later stage (See Oriental Insurance  Company  Ltd.  Vs.  Premlata  Shukla  &
Ors., (2007) 13 SCC 476) and lastly, the Insurance Company failed to  adduce
any evidence to prove that the driving license (Ex.R1) was  either  fake  or
invalid for some reason.
21.   In the light of foregoing reasons, we are of  the  considered  opinion
that the High court was not right in reversing the finding of the  Tribunal.
 Indeed, the High Court should have taken note of these  reasons  which,  in
our view, were germane for deciding the issue of liability of the  Insurance
Company arising out of the accident.
22.   We, therefore, find no good ground to concur with the finding  of  the
High Court. Thus while reversing the finding, we hold  that  the  driver  of
the offending vehicle was holding a valid driving  license  (Exhibit-R1)  at
the time of accident  and  since  the  Insurance  Company  failed  to  prove
otherwise, it was liable to pay the compensation  awarded  by  the  Tribunal
and enhanced by the High Court.
23.   In view of foregoing discussion, the  appeals  filed  by  the  insured
(owner of the offending vehicle) succeed and are  allowed.   Impugned  order
in so far as it relates to exonerating of the  Insurance  Company  from  the
liability to pay the compensation is set aside  and  the  Insurance  Company
(Respondent No.1) is held liable to pay  the  compensation  awarded  by  the
Tribunal and enhanced by the High Court jointly  and  severally  along  with
the driver and owner of the offending vehicle.
24.   No costs.

                     ………...................................J.
                                [J. CHELAMESWAR]


                  …...……..................................J.
                               [ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE]     New Delhi;
July 13, 2016

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