Justice (Retd.) Surjit Singh, President (Oral):
1. This is an appeal, under Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, against the order dated 21.12.2013, of learned District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Mandi, whereby a complaint, under Section 12 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, filed by the respondent, against the appellant, has been allowed and a direction given to it (the appellant), to pay a sum of Rs.61,329/-, on account of insurance claim, with interest at the rate of 9% per annum and also to pay Rs.5,000/-, as compensation and Rs.3,000/-, as costs.
2. Respondent owned a vehicle, which was insured with the appellant from 05.10.2011 to 04.10.2012. On 01.05.2012, the vehicle met with an accident and was damaged. According to the respondent, she spent Rs.78,988/- on repair of the vehicle and another sum of Rs.10,000/-, on towing the vehicle from the site of the accident to the workshop.
3. Claim was lodged by the respondent with the appellant, but the same was repudiated on the grounds, that the person, who was driving the vehicle, possessed a licence to drive, only a light transport vehicle and that too a Cab, while the vehicle, in question, was a medium goods carrier and the vehicle at the time of the accident was being driven, without a route permit, which meant breach of conditions of the policy that the vehicle was to be driven by a duly licensed person and it was not to be used in violation of Section 66 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
4. Respondent felt aggrieved by repudiation of her claim and, therefore, filed a complaint, under Section 12 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, seeking a direction to the appellant to pay insurance claim, compensation and litigation cost.
5. Complaint was contested by the appellant on the same grounds, on which claim had been repudiated.
6. Learned District Forum, vide impugned order, has allowed the complaint, holding that the person, who was driving the vehicle, had a valid licence and that application for route permit appeared to have been made by the respondent, prior to the occurrence of accident, though such permit was issued, subsequent to the date of the accident.
7. We have heard learned counsel for the appellant and gone through the record. Nobody had put in appearance for the respondent, despite service. Therefore, she was ordered to be proceeded ex-parte, vide order dated 22.04.2014.
8. Registration certificate of the vehicle is Annexure C-II, as also O-V (both photostat copies). As per this document, the unladen weight of the vehicle is 2,000 Kilograms and laden weight is 8,720 Kilograms. That means, the weight of the vehicle is more than 7,500 Kilograms and, therefore, it does not fall, under the category of light motor vehicle, within the meaning of Section 2 (21) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
9. Name of the person, who was driving the vehicle at the time of occurrence of the accident, is Bhuttu Ram. Copy of his licence is Annexure O-IV. The licence authorizes its holder to drive light motor vehicle transport cab. That means, the holder of the licence was not authorised to drive a medium goods carrier and, therefore, the appellant was justified in repudiating the claim, on this ground.
10. Again, the route permit, copy Annexure O-VI, was obtained by the respondent/complainant, after the occurrence of accident. Date of route permit is 04.05.2012. Its validity is from 04.05.2012 to 10.11.2016. Fee for obtaining this permit was deposited on 04.05.2012. There is nothing on record, from which it may be presumed that application for permit was made, prior to 04.05.2012. Even the affidavit of the respondent/complainant, to this effect, is not there. Accident took place on 01.05.2012. That means, on the date of occurrence of the accident, route permit was not there, for using the vehicle.
11. Insurance cover note, copy Annexure C-I specifically says that vehicle was to be driven by a person, having valid licence and the same was not to be used, without there being a permit, within the meaning of Section 66 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. In the present case, as noticed hereinabove, vehicle was being driven by a person, not holding a licence to drive the same and also, there was no route permit, within the meaning of Section 66 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. Hence, the appeal is allowed and impugned order set aside. Consequently, the complaint is dismissed.
12. A copy of this order be sent to each of the parties, free of cost, as per Rules.