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Punam Devi and anr. Vs. Divisional Manager, New India Assurance Co. Ltd. and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectInsurance
CourtSupreme Court of India
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Appeal No. 7191 of 2002
Judge
Reported inI(2004)ACC720; 2004ACJ785; AIR2004SC1742; 2004(2)AWC1518(SC); 2004(1)BLJR787; (SCSuppl)2004(4)CHN9; [2004]120CompCas131(SC); 2004(2)CTC79; [2004(2)JCR95(SC)]; JT2004(3)SC33
ActsMotor Vehicles Act - Sections 149(2)
AppellantPunam Devi and anr.
RespondentDivisional Manager, New India Assurance Co. Ltd. and ors.
Appellant Advocate Ranjan Kumar Jha,; Ejaz Maqbool and; Braj K. Mishra, Adv
Respondent Advocate J.R. Midha, ; Niraj Singh and ; Pranab Kumar Mullick, A
DispositionAppeal allowed
Cases ReferredMotor Vehicles Act. In National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Swaran Singh and Ors.
Prior historyFrom the Judgment and Order dated 15.5.2001 of the Patna High Court in L.P.A. No. 1361 of 2000
Excerpt:
.....- award of rs 3, 91, 500 as compensation to claimants by tribunal - appeal against award by insurance company - dismissed by high court - letters patent appeal - order of single judge set aside by letters patent bench and matter remitted back for decision afresh - validity - no evidence led by insurance company that driver of vehicle had no licence - burden of proof that driver had no licence is always on insurance company - since insurance company failed to discharge burden, high court erred in allowing letters patent appeal - impugned judgment of high court set aside - - to avoid its liability towards insured, the insurer has to prove that the insured was guilty of negligence or failed to exercise reasonable care in the matter of fulfilling the condition of the policy..........before the motor accidents claims tribunal, bhagalpur. before the tribunal, the respondent-insurance company neither pleaded nor led any evidence that the driver of the truck did not have any licence. the tribunal by an order dated 12.2.1999 gave an award for a sum of rs. 3,91,500/-. aggrieved, the respondent-insurance company preferred an appeal before the high court.a learned single judge of the high court dismissed the appeal on the ground that the same was not maintainable. aggrieved, the respondent-insurance company further filed a letters patent appeal before the high court. the letters patent bench set aside the order of the learned single and remitted the matter back upon framing issues for determination by the single judge. it is against the said judgment, the appellants.....
Judgment:
ORDER

1. In a motor vehicle accident one Sanjiv Kumar Jha died at the spot. Consequently, the appellants filed their claims petition before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Bhagalpur. Before the Tribunal, the respondent-Insurance Company neither pleaded nor led any evidence that the driver of the truck did not have any licence. The Tribunal by an order dated 12.2.1999 gave an award for a sum of Rs. 3,91,500/-. Aggrieved, the respondent-Insurance Company preferred an appeal before the High Court.A learned Single Judge of the High Court dismissed the appeal on the ground that the same was not maintainable. Aggrieved, the respondent-Insurance Company further filed a letters patent appeal before the High Court. The Letters Patent Bench set aside the order of the learned Single and remitted the matter back upon framing issues for determination by the Single Judge. It is against the said judgment, the appellants are in appeal before us.

2. In National Insurance Co. Ltd. Chandigarh v. Nicolletta Rohagi and Ors., it was held that the insurance company cannot challenge the quantum of compensation awarded by the Tribunal. The only ground open to insurer is contained in Section 149(2) of the Motor Vehicles Act. In National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Swaran Singh and Ors. : AIR2004SC1531 , this Court has held that 'mere absence, fake or invalid driving licence or disqualification of the driver for driving at the relevant time, are not in themselves defences available to me insurer against either the insured or the third parties. To avoid its liability towards insured, the insurer has to prove that the insured was guilty of negligence or failed to exercise reasonable care in the matter of fulfilling the condition of the policy regarding use of vehicles by duly licensed driver or one who was not disqualified to drive at me relevant time'. In the present case, the insurer has not led any evidence that the driver of the vehicle had no licence. The burden of proof that the driver had no licence was open to the insurer which it failed to discharge.

3. In that view of the matter, the Division Bench erred in allowing the letters patent appeal.

4. We, therefore, set aside the order and judgment of the Division Bench, The appeal is allowed. There shall be no order as to costs.


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