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Smt. Gopibai Ghanshamda Advani and Others Vs. Food Corporation of India, Bombay and Others - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCompany
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in[1986]59CompCas660(Bom)
ActsMotor Vehicles Act - Sections 2, 9(5) and 95
AppellantSmt. Gopibai Ghanshamda Advani and Others
RespondentFood Corporation of India, Bombay and Others
Excerpt:
.....was liable to pay the compensation to the employee under proviso (ii), section 95 (1) of the motor vehicle act, 1939 - the employee while traveling on official duty in insured office car meant for official purpose, met with his death due to rash and negligent driving on part of the driver - the court ruled that the insurance company was liable to pay compensation as the deceased was a passenger in the vehicle by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment. - maharashtra scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, de-notified tribes (vimukta jatis), nomadic tribes, other backward classes and special backward category (regulation of issuance and verification of) caste certificate act (23 of 2001), sections 6 & 10: [s.b. mhase, a.p. deshpande & p.b. varale, jj] caste certificate ..........insurance co., bombay, under a policy which is required to be taken out under section 95 of the motor vehicles act, 1939. the claimants , therefore, claim that the amount of compensation should also made payable by the said insurance company.5. the said claim was opposed by the corporation the driver and also by the insurance company. the motor accidents claims tribunal,after recording evidence that was led before it, came to the conclusion that ghanshamdas met with his death on account of rash and negligent driving by the driver , more. the learned district judge and ex officio member of the said tribunal determined the compensation at rs. 34,400. the tribunal, however, came to the conclusion that this amount was payable only by the corporation and the driver, more, and that the.....
Judgment:

Gadgil J.

1. These two appeals arise from an order of the Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal, Ahmednagar, in Miscellaneous Application No.29 of 1979, whereunder an amount of Rs. 34,400 has been directed to be paid to the applicant by opponents Nos. 1 and 2 with future interest at a certain rate. The original applicants (hereinafter referred to as 'the claimants') have filed First Appeal No. 82 of 9182 claiming additional amount of Rs. 80,000. They have also claimed that the amount of compensation should be made recoverable from the New India Insurance Co. Bombay (original opponent No.3). The other Appeal No. 110 of 1982 is filed by the Food Corporation of India, Bombay, and its driver, Shri P.H. More (original opponent No.2) challenging the award of compensation made by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal , Ahmednagar.

2. Before the hearing of these appeals began, Mr. Rajani, the learned advocate appearing for the appellants in First Appeal No. 82 of 1982, made a statement that the appellants do not intend to prosecute this appeal. Hence, the arguments were heard only with respect to Appeal No. 110 of 1982. Mr. Rajani has today filed a purshis reiterating the position about the withdrawal of this appeal. Hence, First Appeal No. 82 of 1982 is disposed of as withdrawn.

3. There does not appear to be much dispute as to how Ghanshamdas (the husband of claimant No. 1 and father of claimants Nos. 2 and 3), met with his death on August 29, 1979.Deceased , Ghanshamdas, was working as an assistant manager with the Food Corporation of India (hereinafter referred to as ' the Corporation '), and at the relevant time was posted and was working at Manmade. Ghanshamdas was drawing emoluments of Rs. 1,510 per month on the date of the incident. On August 29, 1979, Ghanshamdas accompanied by his superior officers, namely, the deputy manager, Karnik and certain other officers such as assistant manager, Shri Guneshwar, watchman, Shri Hagvane, coolie, Shri Pawar, proceeded from Manmad to Shrirampur in an Ambassador car bearing No. MRH 4969 belonging to the Corporation. The car was being driven by Shri P.H. More, the driver of the Corporation. In due course, the party reached Shrirampur at about 2.30 p.m. or so and after doing their official duties there, the party left in the said car No. MRH 4969 for returning to Manmad. At about 7.30 p.m. the car came across a nallah known as ' Mamdapur ' Nallah ' on the way. There were heavy rains and it was not possible to cross that Nallah as the guard stones were not visible. The party waited at the bank of the Nallah for about two hours. However, there was no possibility of the water in the Nallah receding. Some other cars which were also stranded proceeded towards Manmad by a kaccha road which was passing by the side of the canal. Driver , More, started driving the vehicle by the kaccha road. After travelling a distance of 8 to 9 kilometers, the car fell in the canal. Shri Karnik, shri Guneshwar, Pawar and driver, More, were able to rescue themselves. Deceased , Ghanshamdas, was taken out of the canal. However, he died on account of drowning. Similarly the watchman , hagvane also died.

4. The case of the claimants is that the car fell in the canal on account of the rash and negligent driving by More and that, therefore, the claimants are entitled to claim compensation against the Corporation and the driver. The car insured with opponent No. 3, the New India Insurance Co., Bombay, under a policy which is required to be taken out under section 95 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939. The claimants , therefore, claim that the amount of compensation should also made payable by the said insurance company.

5. The said claim was opposed by the Corporation the driver and also by the insurance company. The Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal,after recording evidence that was led before it, came to the conclusion that Ghanshamdas met with his death on account of rash and negligent driving by the driver , More. The learned District Judge and ex officio member of the said Tribunal determined the compensation at Rs. 34,400. The Tribunal, however, came to the conclusion that this amount was payable only by the Corporation and the driver, More, and that the insurance company is not liable to make that payment.

6. As stated earlier, the claimants had preferred an appeal praying for enhancement of the compensation and also for a direction that the compensation should be made payable by the insurance company. The contentions in this appeal, however, do not survive now. The appeal has to be disposed of a withdrawn.

7. The main contention of Mr. Advani for the Corporation is two-fold. According to him, there was neither rashness nor negligence on the part of driver, when the mishap took place and that, therefore, the Corporation and its driver would not be liable to pay any compensation to the claimants. His another contention is that in case such a liability arises against the Corporation, the insurance company is liable to make the payment in view of the policy that was taken out by the Corporation under section 95 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939.

8. It is true that the claimants have not been able to examine any person who had actually seen as to how the car fell in the canal. However, such evidence is not always necessary and many a time that type of evidence may not be available. The Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal has relied upon the principles of res ipsa loquitur for the purpose of deciding as to whether the circumstances are such that rashness and negligence on the part of the driver can be conclusively inferred. It is in evidence that it was a dark night and there were no lights on the kaccha road. Driver, More,. has admitted that when he started driving the vehicle on the kaccha road by the side of the canal, the car was webbing and that it was taking turns. Even then he continued to drive the vehicle. It is material to note that the road was itself a kaccha one and wa passing by the side of the canal. The very fact that the car was wobbling and taking turns would indicate that the driver could have taken the decisions not to proceed further. However, he did go ahead and in that process, the unfortunate incident of the fall of the car in the canal took place. In our opinion , the circumstance are so eloquent that rashness and negligence on the part of the driver requires to be deduced and it will not be open for Mr. Advani to contend that those circumstances should be brushed aside simply because the claimants are not able to lead evidence of an independent witness. In our opinion , the learned District Judge and ex officio member of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal , Ahmednagar, has rightly recorded a finding that Ghanshamdas met with his death on account of the rash and negligent driving of the driver, More.

9. The learned District Judge and ex-officio member of the Tribunal , Ahmednagar, has worked out the compensation at the figure of Rs. 34,400 and Mr. Advani frankly stated before us that the Corporation does not intend to challenge the quantum of compensation in case of this court comes to the conclusion that the claimants are entitled to any compensation.

10. We have already observed that the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Ahmednagar, has refused to pass any order directing the insurance company to make payment of the compensation amount to the claimants. Mr. Advani for the Corporation contended that the Corporation is bound to make the payment and, as against this , Mr. Chaphekar, who appears for the insurance company , has argued that there is no such liability on the company under section 95 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1939. It is , therefore, necessary to consider the provision of section 95 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, for the purpose of deciding as to whether the insurance company is liable.

11. Chapter VII of the Motor Vehicles Act , 1939, has made certain provisions regarding the necessity of the insurance of motor vehicles against third party risks. Section 94 makes it mandatory to have such insurance while section 95 provides as to what risk the insurance policy should cover and what would be the limit of the liability of the insurance company, section 95(1)(a) and (b) states that there must be an insurance policy which insures certain persons and clauses of persons and the limit of that insurance is as mentioned in sub- section (2) of section 95. Amongst other things, it is necessary that the policy must insure against any liability which may be incurred by the insured in respect of the death of, or bodily injury to, any person or damage to any property of a third person caused by or arising out of the use of the vehicle in a public place. There are, however, two provisions, to this sub-section (1) of section 95. For deciding the present controversy, the second proviso is material and it reads as follows :

' Provided that a policy shall not be required - ...(ii) except where the vehicle is a vehicle in which passengers are carried for hire or reward or by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment , to cover liability in respect of the death of, or bodily injury to, persons being carried in or upon or entering or mounting or alighting form the vehicle at the time of the occurrence of the event out of which a claim arises , or ..'

12. Sub-section 2 of section 95 limits the liability of the insurance company and, as far as the present appeal is concerned , the material portion of that sub-section (2) of section 95 can be reproduced as follows :

' (2) Subject to the proviso to sub-section (1) a policy of insurance shall cover any liability incurred in respect of any one accident up to the following limits , namely :- ....

(b) where the vehicle is a vehicle in which passengers are carried for hire or reward or by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment , -

(i) in respect of persons other than passengers carried for hire or reward, a limit of fifty thousand rupees in all ;

(ii) in respect of passengers...'

13. Mr. Advani contended that a plain reading of proviso (ii) to sub- section (i) would show that the insurance 0policy must cover the liability where the vehicle is a vehicle in which a passengers are carried for hire or reward or by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of a employment. In the present case, we are not concerned with the liability with respect to passengers carried for hire or reward. Here, the deceased, Ghanshamdas, was an employee of the Corporation and the contention of Mr. Advani is that the deceased , Ghanshamdas, was thus travelling in a vehicle by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment. It is not in dispute that deceased , Ghanshamdas, was posted at Manmad and that he alone with other officers of the Corporation had gone to Shrirampur on official duty and they were returning after performing that duty. The use of the word 'passenger' in proviso (ii) creates an impression that the vehicle must be a transport vehicle or a stage carriage vehicle, and the person travelling in it must be a passenger who has purchased a ticket for his travel. However, this is a wrong impression. We may with advantage refer to the following meaning given to that term in the New Webster's English Dictionary :

' Pas-sen-ger, Pas' en' jer, n. (O.E. Passenger one who makes a passage ; the n being an intrusive element,as in messenger). One who travels on a plane , ship, rail road, bus, taxi or other conveyance; a way fairer or traveller ; as a foot passenger'. (The letter and words underlined * are in italics).

To understand the exact meaning of the relevant clause of proviso (ii), we would like to reproduce that clause in two separate parts :

' (i) where the vehicle is a vehicle in which passengers are carried for hire or reward, and (ii) where the vehicle is a vehicle in which passengers are carried by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment.'

14. The second part of the clause mentioned above can have the correct meaning only if we interpret the term' passenger ' to mean not as a passenger in a bus service but as a person who is seeking passage in the vehicle. Otherwise, it will not be possible to give any rational meaning to this clause. One would not be able to imagine a case where a passenger in a bus service is carried by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment . Thus, the second part of the clause would never be application if the term ' passenger ' is construed to mean a passenger in such a bus service. If he is a passenger in such a bus service , he cannot be carried by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment . It would thus by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment. It would thus be clear that the relevant clause under proviso (ii) only contemplates that the vehicles must be one in which a person is carried by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment . Certain other High Courts had an occasion to consider the meaning of this clause of provision (ii). In the case of Channappa Channaveerappa Katti v. Laxman Bhimappa Bajentri, : AIR1979Kant93 , the facts were that a goods vehicle met with an accident on account of rash and negligent driving of the driver. One Somappa, who was the owner of the goods, was in the vehicle while Balappa, who was working as a cleaner, was also there. Both of them died in that accident. The vehicle was insured in order to comply with the provisions of section 95 of the Motor Vehicles Act. The question arose as to whether the legal representatives of Balappa were entitled to claim compensation from the insurance company. The Karnataka High Court has held that the word ' passenger ' used in relevant clause of the second proviso should not necessarily pertain to a passenger in a public service vehicle. A finding was, therefore, recorded that the cleaner , who was an employee of the owner of the vehicle , was covered by the said relevant clause. The Madras High Court has considered the provisions of section 95 of the Motor Vehicles Act in a somewhat different context in the case of Vanguard Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Chinnammal, : AIR1970Mad236 . It was also a case of a goods vehicle. The goods of someone else were being transported by the owner of the vehicle and an employee of the owner of the goods was travelling in the said vehicle. The Madras High Court has held that though the said employee was not of the owner of the vehicle , as he was the employee of the owner of the goods, still he was a passenger in the goods vehicle by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment . Thus, the term , by reason of or in pursuance of a contact of employment' has been construed to mean that such relation of employment would not necessary between the insured and the injured person. The Supreme Court had an occasion to consider the provisions of section 95 of the Motor Vehicle Act in the case of Pushpabai Parshottam Udeshi v. Ranjit Ginning and Pressing Co. P. Ltd. : [1977]3SCR372 . In that case , the driver of the car gave a gratuitous lift to a person who ultimately met with his death in an accident which was caused on account of rash and negligent driving. The Supreme Court came to the conclusion that the dependants of the person (who was given the lift) would not be able to claim compensation from the insurance company as their case does not fall under any of the provisions of section 95 of the Motor Vehicles Act . However, the insurance policy has covered the risk of such a person and the relevant clauses reads as follows AIR 1977 SC 1746 :

' In consideration of the payment of an additional premium , it is hereby understood and agreed that the company undertakes to pay compensation on the scale provided below for bodily injury as hereinafter defined sustained by any passenger..'

15. While construing this clause, the Supreme Court held that a person who was given a lift in the car would be a passenger as contemplated by this clause and the insurance company would be liable to pay the compensation to the dependents of the deceased not under section 95 of the Motor Vehicles Act but in accordance with provisions of the insurance policy. Thus, the term 'passenger' as said in the insurance policy has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to include even a person who is given a lift. It would thus be clear that it would not be necessary to construe the term ' passenger ' to mean that the person must be a passenger in any passenger service or stage carried vehicle.

16. The above discussion would, therefore, show that the insurance company would be liable if the deceased , Ghanshamdas, was being carried in the car by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment . We have already observed that the deceased, Ghanshamdas, accompanied by the other officers of the corporation had gone to Shrirampur on official duty and were returning after performing such duty. Obviously, it will not be possible carried in the car by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment with the Corporation.

17. Mr. Chaphekar, however, contended that simply because on that particular day, the deceased , Ghanshamdas, was so carried in the Car would not necessarily fasten any liability on the insurance company unless there is evidence to show that the Car No. MRH 4969 was habitually used for carrying persons by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment. He drew out attention to a decision of the King's Bench in the case of Izzard v. Universal Insurance Co. Ltd. [1973] 3 All ER 79 ; [1937] AC 773 ; [1938] 8 Comp Cas (ins.) 91 (HL). Section 36 of the Road Traffic Act and the relevant clause in proviso (ii) of section 95 of the M.V. Act are practically similar. In that case , the owner of a motor car took the plaintiff to London and received certain amount as hire. On the way the car met with an accident on account of rashness and negligence of the driver. The car was insured under the provisions of section 36 of the Road Traffic Act . The question arose as to whether the insurance company was bound to pay the compensation under the insurance policy. It was held that with a view that the vehicle should be a vehicle in which passengers are carried for hire or reward, it is necessary that the vehicle should be normally and habitually be used in that way and that an isolated occasion of carrying a passenger for hire or reward would not make that vehicle of a type needed to be covered by the insurance policy. Shri Chaphekar also relied upon the commentary from the book, the above mentioned case of Izzard v. Universal Insurance Co. Ltd. [1937] 3 All ER 79 ; [1937] AC 773 ; [1938] 8 Comp Cas (Ins.) 91 (HL), has been discussed and it has been observed that the vehicle should be habitually used for the purpose as contemplated by the relevant clause of carrying passengers for hire or reward. On page 208, the commentary reads as follows :

' As to the point whether the vehicles in which passengers are carried in pursuance of or by reason of a contract of employment are confined to those used habitually for such purposes, it is noticeable that both in Izzard's case [1937] 3 All ER 79 ; [1937] AC 773 ; [1938] 8 Comp Cas (Ins.) 91 (HL) and the case of Baker v. Provident Accident and White Cross Insurance Co. Ltd. [1939] 2 All ER 690 (KB), the vehicles were in fact habitually used in such a manner . The point was not taken in either case, but it is submitted that on the authority of Wyatt v. Guildhall Insurance Co. Ltd. [1937] 1 KB 653 (KB), habitual user of his nature must be proved in order that the claim may succeed.'

18. In our opinion, in the present case, it is not necessary to decide ;as to whether the vehicle should be habitually used for carrying passengers by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment as suggested by Mr. Chaphekar. We do not proposes to express any opinion on this requirements as, in our opinion, even if the contention of Mr. Chaphekar is accepted , there is abundant material to hold that the deceased , Ghanshamdas, was carried in a vehicle which is habitually used for carrying passengers by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment . In the first place, it is material to note that the insurance company has not raised any specific plea that the vehicle in question was not so habitually used, Apart from that, the written statement filed by the insurance company makes the position clear. In paragraphs 2, the insurance company has pleaded as follows :

' The insurer further say and submit that at all material times, the deceased was being carried in the aforesaid vehicle in pursuance of his contract of employment with opposite party No. 2 and his death arose out of and in the course of his employment with the said opposite party.'

19. There is no more aspect which cannot be forgotten. In the present case, owner of the vehicle, namely, the Food Corporation of India, is a statutory Corporation. This Corporation has it headquarters at Delhi and at Manmad, there is a sort of branch officer or sub-office. It is at this branch office that the Ambassador car No. MRH 4969 was kept for the office use and for obvious reasons, the said car can or should be used only by the employees of the Food Corporation of India and that too by reason of or in pursuance of their contract of employment with the Corporation. In view of these circumstances, we do not think that there is any substance in the contention of the insurance company that the vehicle was not habitually used for the purpose that is needed under the relevant clause of the second proviso of section 95 of the Motor Vehicles Act. The insurance company would, therefore, be equally liable to pay the compensation that has been awarded by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal and to that extent the order of the Tribunal need to be modified . Hence , we pass the following order :

ORDER

1. First Appeal No. 82 of 1982 is allowed to be withdrawn and disposed of accordingly. The appellants in this appeal will be entitled to the refund of the court fees as permissible under the law.

2. First Appeal No. 110 of 1982 is partly allowed and in place of the order passed by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Ahmednagar, the following order is substituted :

' Original opponents Nos.1 and 2, namely, the Food Corporation of India , Bombay ,and Shri P.H. More, should pay to the original claimants the amount of Rs . 34,000 , with future interest at the rate of six per cent. per annum from July 30, 1981, till payment together with costs of the trial court. The original opponent No. 4 , namely, the New India Insurance Company , Bombay , shall also be liable to pay to the original claimants the above sum of Rs. 34,400 , together with costs of the trial court and interest of Rs. 34,400 at six per cent. per annum from July 30, 1981,as laid down by section 96 of the Motor Vehicles Act. Original opponent No.4 , namely, the New India Insurance Company , Bombay, shall pay to original opponents No. 1 and 2 the costs of this court as also of the trial court. Respondents Nos. 1, 2 and 3 shall bear their own costs of this court. The amount deposited by the appellants in this court towards the satisfaction of this claim should be paid by the Registrar, High Court, Appellate Side, Bombay, to the original claimants after encashing the fixed deposits receipt.'


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