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Smt. Chand Kanwar Vs. Mannaram and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles;Civil
CourtRajasthan High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Misc. Appeal No. 190 of 1982
Judge
Reported inAIR1986Raj2
ActsMotor Vehicles Act, 1939 - Sections 95, 96 and 110B
AppellantSmt. Chand Kanwar
RespondentMannaram and ors.
Appellant Advocate S.R. Surana, Adv.
Respondent Advocate B.M. Singh and; Dalip Singh, Advs. for; S.D. Sharma,
DispositionAppeal partly allowed
Cases ReferredJaipur v. Gopiram Suresh Chand and Jagdish Singh
Excerpt:
.....interpretation, which i have been persuaded to take as beneficial interpretation and liberal in favour of the insured in consonance with the well established canons, principles, i hold that the liability of the insurance company in the present case, would extend to the limit of the award given by the tribunal under section 110-b of the act......'the limit of the liability to pay such amount as is necessary to meet the requirement of the motor vehicles act, 1939.21. the legal debate is regarding the interpretation of the above phrase, 'necessary to meet the requirement of the motor vehicles act'.22. whereas, shri ram singh submitted that it means that, the award given under the motor vehicles act; shri srivastava challenges it. according to shri srivastava, it is only statutory liability as mentioned in rules 95 and 96 of the motor vehicles act, 1939, (hereinafter referred to be 'the act'), as the case may be.23. shri mansingh invited my attention to the comprehensive discussion regarding liability of the insurance company where, there is a comprehensive insurance policy, made in srisailam devastanam v. bhavani pramillamma,.....
Judgment:

Guman Mal Lodha, J.

1. This is a claimants appeal against the Award passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Alwar in case No. 54/78. The award of compensation is of Rs. 55,498.20 p. for the death of Ranchhormal, Administrative Officer in Finance Department of National Insurance Company, Jaipur.

2. Ranchhormal was 40 years of age and was getting Rs. 1,850/- per month as salary in addition to the benefit of provident fund, gratuity, medical aid, travelling allowance, bonus, etc. The age of retirement was 60 years. The deceased was Senior Administrative Officer and his chances for further promotion were bright in the near future.

3. It would be now relevant and useful to mention the facts leading to this accident. On 18th Jan., 1978, the deceased was coming to Jaipur from Delhi travelling in bus No. DLP 5% which is said to have become out of order in the way near Behror. Thus, when the said busNo. DLP 596 was standing at the one side of the road, the deceased went on the other side of the road to make water, towards rough side. After making water, while the deceased was standing, a vehicle No. RSO 2974 which was being driven rashly and negligently by Mannaram, the respondent No. 1, struck the deceased from behind and the deceased was crushed below the vehicle resulting in death of the deceased at the spot.

4. The deceased left behind wife -- Smt.Chand Kanwar, Kumari Pratima aged 14 years,Kumari Ranjana aged 12 yrs., Kunwar Ranjeevaged 8 years and widow mother -- Smt. PunamKunwar aged 60 years, who were thedependents of the deceased. On account ofthis calamity, the dependents of the deceasedclaimed Rs. 7,04,000/- from the respondents.The Tribunal held that the death was onaccount of rash and negligent driving ofMannaram-driver and, awardedRs. 55,498.20 p., out of which Rs. 5,000/- wereordered to be given to Smt. Punam Kanwar,the mother of deceased; Rs. 10,000/- eachwere ordered to be given to the appellantsNos. 2, 3 and 4, namely Kumari Pratima,Kumari Ranjana and Kunwar Rajeevrespectively and the balance of the amountwas ordered to be given to the appellant No. 1-- Smt. Chand Kanwar.

5. The non-claimants were satisfied by this Award and they have not challenged it by way of any appeal nor they have filed any cross-objections in this appeal. In view of this, it is not necessary to discuss the correctness of the finding of rashness and negligence, the ownership of the vehicle etc., as they are not in dispute.

6. The point which is in debate and is equally involved, relates to the quantum of compensation. This has got various facets and they will have to be discussed, separately.

7. The Tribunal has arrived at the conclusion that the deceased used to get monthly basic salary Rs. 810/- plus dearness allowance Rs. 910/-, plus house rent allowance Rs. 119/- and, thus in all, he used to get Rs. 1,839/- excluding the benefit of provident fund, bonus and gratuity etc., to the tune of Rs. 250/- per month. The age of retirement was of 60 years and, therefore, he was scheduled to remain in service more for 20years as he was, at the time of the accident, of 40 years.

8. The income, which the deceased would have earned, has been calculated as Rs. 1839/-+ Rs. 250/- X 12 X 20 = Rs. 5,04,000/- by the claimants. The claimants have also calculated and claimed as Rs. 50,000/- on account of loss of earning from future prospects of promotions; Rs. 50,000/- as mental agony; Rs. 50,000/- as loss of consortium; Rs. 50,000/-as loss of security, love and affection. Thus, the claimants, as mentioned above, claimed Rs. 7,04,000/-.

9. The Tribunal came to the conclusion that, after the deduction expected for the expenditure incurred by the deceased, the expectancy of financial benefit to the family, were Rs. 900/- per month. The Tribunal, then taking notice of the fact that the father of the deceased had earlier died at the age of 55 years on account of heart failure, arrived at the conclusion that the deceased would have lived up to 55 years and, multiplied Rs. 900/-X 12 X 14 and calculated Rs. 1,51,000/-towards financial aid to the family. The Tribunal then made deductions of Rs. 25,200/-in it on the ground that the lump sum is being paid as compensation. Thus, the Tribunal came to the conclusion that the amount would be Rs. 1,26,000/-.

10. The Tribunal then discussed the point regarding deductions of the amount which were received by the dependents of the deceased after the accident, namely, provident fund income Rs. 20,383.70 p., Rs. 12,150/-towards gratuity income; Rs. 29,160/- income from Staff Group gratuity, Personal Accident policy compensation and further Rs. 41,341.20 income from the Life Insurance policy of the deceased.

11. After a detailed discussion, the Tribunal arrived at the conclusion that the following amount should be deducted from the figure of Rs. 1,51,200/-.

1. Lump sum deduction Rs. 25,200/-

2. Claim from Staff Group personal

accident policy Rs. 29,160/-

3. Life Insurance policy Rs. 41,341.20 p.

Thus, after deductions, the Tribunal awarded Rs. 55,498.80 p. as mentioned above.

12. After hearing the learned counsel for the parties, I am of the opinion that, so far as the deduction on account of lump sum payment is concerned, it is not permissible now due to rising prices, fall of value of rupee, and prospects of increase in income of deceased in future, as held in :--

1. Bhagchand Panju Ram v. Smt. Snehlata, AIR 1974 Raj 212 = 1975 Acc CJ 9 para 48; 2. Bhagwanti Devi v. Ish Kumar, 1975 Acc CJ 56 (Delhi); 3. Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Shanti Devidutt, 1975 Acc CJ 508 (Delhi); 4. Delhi Transport Corporation v. Pushpa Chopra, 1981 Acc CJ 203 (Delhi); 5. Mohinder Kaur v. Manphool Singh, 1981 Acc CJ 231 (Delhi); 6. Srisailam Devastanam v. Bhavani Pramilamma, 1983 Acc CJ 580 : (AIR 1983 Andh Pra 297); 7. National Ins. Co. Ltd. v. Pushpa Kunwar, 1983 Acc CJ 629 (Madh Pra);8. Sundersham Puri v. Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation, 1983 Acc CJ 489 (Raj);9. Satyawati Pathak v. Hari Ram, 1983 Acc CJ 424 : (AIR 1984 Delhi 106).

These latest decisions (supra) have been relied upon by me in a series of decisions recently.

13. The various decisions given and relied upon for deduction are not justified. I would, therefore, add Rs. 25,200/- which has been deducted by the Tribunal.

14. Similarly, the payment of insurance and gratuity cannot be deducted from the compensation awarded in the accident claim eases as held in the following decisions :

1. Krishna Sehgal v. U. P. State Road Trans. Corporation, 1983 Acc CJ 619 : AIR 1983 All 159; 2. Avon Delux Tran. Co., N. Delhi v. Snehlatha Selvamani, AIR 1983 Delhi 93 : 1982 Acc CJ 370; 3. Amarjit Kaur v. Vanguard Insurance Co., 1981 Acc a 495 : (AIR 1982 Delhi 1); 4. Bhagwanti Devi v. Ish Kumar (supra), 1975 Acc CJ 56 (Delhi); 5. L.I.C of India v. L.R. of deceased Naranbhai, 1973 Acc a 226: (AIR 1973 Guj 216); 6. Sood and Company v. Surjit Kaur, 1973 Acc CJ 414 (Punj & Har); 7, Hoshiarpur National Trans. v. M.A.C.T. Hoshiarpur, 1980 Acc CJ 83 (Punj & Har).

In view of this, the amount of Rs. 41,341.20 p. and Rs. 29,160/- deducted cannot be sustained.

15. The net result would be that theamount of compensation as per the calculation of the Tribunal would be Rs. 1,51,200/-.

16. Now, coming to the next aspect. Shri S.R. Surana the learned counsel for the appellants-claimants, argued also that the calculation by the Tribunal on the expectancy of age 55 years is not justified. It has been held in series of the decisions that normal expectancy of the life, in the modern time on account of the latest medical science development and technology along with other factors, is 70 years in India. It is true that the father of the deceased in the present case, died on account of the heart failure but, nothing has come on record to show that the deceased-Ranchhormal was suffering from any heart trouble. Post mortem report (Ex. P4) mentions that the heart of the deceased was healthy.

17. It was also argued that even after the retirement, the deceased would have earned and, therefore, the same should have been made for the income up to the age of 70 years. However, I am not inclined to accept this part of this contention because it would be based on purely conjectures. I, would, therefore, allow the benefit of expectancy of income only during the superannuation age as the criteria and, that being so, the compensation will have to be increased by adding five years more expectancy. The amount multiplying Rs. 900/- X 12 X 5 = Rs. 54,000/- would come and, this amount of Rs. 54,000/- will have to be added in the award of Rs. 1,51,200/- and it would come to Rs. 2,05,200/-.

18. So far as the deduction of gratuity Rs. 80/- per month while calculating the monthly income, is concerned, I am inclined to accept the contention of Shri Surana that this deduction is unwarranted. It is well known that the amount of gratuity is not deducted in the salary per month. The learned counsel for the respondents also could not point out any justification for deduction of Rs. 80/- per month from the monthly salary as no deduction is made by the employer from the salary as gratuity. Thus, this amount will have to be added for 20 years and this would come to Rs. 19,200/-, which is being added to Rs. 2,05,200/-. Now the total amount would be Rs. 2,24,400/-.

19. The question now remains about the liability of the insurance company. Both, theclaimant's counsel and Shri Mansingh appearing on behalf of the respondents other than the insurance company, submitted that the liability to pay the compensation is to the full extent because it is comprehensive insurance policy.

20. Shri Srivastava, on the contrary, submitted that, even though there is a comprehensive insurance policy, the liability of the insurance company would be up to Rs. 50,000/- only as per the condition mentioned in the insurance policy, 'the limit of the liability to pay such amount as is necessary to meet the requirement of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939.

21. The legal debate is regarding the interpretation of the above phrase, 'necessary to meet the requirement of the Motor Vehicles Act'.

22. Whereas, Shri Ram Singh submitted that it means that, the Award given under the Motor Vehicles Act; Shri Srivastava challenges it. According to Shri Srivastava, it is only statutory liability as mentioned in Rules 95 and 96 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, (hereinafter referred to be 'the Act'), as the case may be.

23. Shri Mansingh invited my attention to the comprehensive discussion regarding liability of the insurance company where, there is a comprehensive insurance policy, made in Srisailam Devastanam v. Bhavani Pramillamma, 1983 Acc CJ 580 : (AIR 1983 Andh Pra 297). The Division Bench of Andhra Pradesh High Court was concerned with the interpretation of question of liability in that case.

24. Their Lordships of Andhra Pradesh High Court considered the terms of the insurance policy and then in para 44 extracted the important portions of the decision of the Apex court in New Asiatic Insurance Co. v. Pessumal, (1958) 65 Acc CJ 559 : (AIR 1964 SC 1736). Para 12 of the decision in New Asiatic Insurance Co. v. Pessumal (supra), reads as under:

'Chapter VIII of the Act, it appears from the heading, makes provision for insurance of the vehicle against third party risks, that is to say, its provisions ensure that third parties who suffer on account of the user of the motor vehicle would be able to get damages forinjuries suffered and that their ability to get the damages will not be dependent on the financial condition of the driver of the vehicle whose user led to the causing of the injuries. The provisions have to be construed in such a manner as to ensure this object of the enactment,'

25. In the same decision, the question whether the company is liable for the entire amount has come up for consideration. After considering all the relevant provisions under this Chapter, their Lordships have held in para 22 as follows :

'Thus the contract between the insured and the company may not provide for all the liabilities which the company has to undertake vis-a-vis the third parties, in view of the provisions of the Act. We are of the opinion that once the company had undertaken liability to third parties incurred by the persons specified in the policy, the third parties' right to recover any amount under or by virtue of the provisions of the Act is not affected by any condition in the policy. Considering this aspect of the terms of the policy, it is reasonable to conclude that Proviso(s) of para 3 of Section II is a mere condition affecting the rights of the insured who effected the policy and the persons to whom the cover of the policy was extended by the company and does not come in the way of third parties' claim against the company on account of its claim against a person specified in para 3 as one to whom cover of the policy was extended.'

26. Undoubtedly, in the instant case, a copy of the insurance policy produced in the case and the original shown to as by the parties contains the condition, limit of the liability, to pay such amount as is necessary to meet the requirement of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939'. The exact wordings in the policy read as under:

'Limits of Liability :

Limit of the amount of the Company's liability under Section II-1(1) in respect of any one accident: Such amount as is necessary to meet the requirements of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939.

Limit of the amount of the Company's liability under Section II-1(ii) in respect of any one claim or series of claims arising out of one event: Rs. 50,000/-.'

So far as Section II-1(ii) of the policy in the case of comprehensive is concerned, it concerns to damages to property caused by the use (including the loading and/or unloading) of the Motor Vehicles and the liability in that case prescribed is Rs. 50,000/- only, So far as death of or bodily injury to any person is concerned, it has been left to be interpreted as to what is the meaning of 'such amount as is necessary to meet the requirements of Motor Vehicles Act, 1939'.

27. Shri Ram Singh pointed out that a Division Bench of Madras High Court has interpreted the question of liability of the insurance company in Rajeshwari Transports (Firm) Theni v. Rajan, (1982) 1 Mad LJ 248 wherein their Lordships in para 7, have observed that, if the limit of Rs. 50,000/- has not been mentioned and it has been restricted to the liability of the insurer under Section 95(2) then it is possible to also say that the liability of the insurer is unlimited, being comprehensive policy.

28. Shri Ram Singh further invited my attention to another earlier decision of Division Bench of Madras High Court in Oriental Fire & Genl. Ins. Co. v. Ganapathi Ramalingam, AIR 1981 Mad 299 wherein it has been held that the limit prescribed in Section 95(2) of the Act regarding limit of the liability of the insurance company in the case of comprehensive policy would not apply. The discussion finds place in paras 6 and 9. In para 9 there is a concession by the insurance company on that point.

29. Shri Srivastava invited my attention to the decision in Sheikhupura Transport Company Ltd. v. N. I. Transporters' Ins. Co. Ltd., 1971 Acc a 206 : (AIR 1971 SC 1624), wherein their Lordships of the Apex Court considered the question of liability of the insurance company and, observed in para 12, that the statutory liability of the insurer to indemnify the insured is as prescribed in Section 95(2). In that case, in the policy of the insurance, there was no provision for any amount under Section 95(2)(b) of the Act and, therefore, their Lordships held in para 11 that on account of the clause mentioned in the policy which was reproduced in para 10, the amount to be recovered is that covered by Clause (b) of Sub-section (1) of Section 95.

30. It would thus be seen that except thedecision of Gauhati High Court in Kanan Bordoloi v. Balwant Rai Mukkar, 1984 Acc CJ 469 where these words, 'such amount as is necessary to meet the requirements of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939' have been interpreted directly, there is no direct case on the crucial point.

31. In Madras case of Rajeshwari Trans. (Firm) Theni, ((1982) 1 Mad LJ 248) (supra), their Lordships observed that if the insured wants a policy with an unlimited liability, then he should have bargained for such a policy and paid the requisite premium for such an unlimited liability. But, in that case particularly, the parties were agreed that the limit of liability in respect of third party to be borne by the insurer should be Rs. 50,000/- and paid additional premium on that basis only.

32. Shri Srivastava also invited my attention to the discussion of the implications of 'comprehensive policy' contained in the treatise. The Claims in India (Motor)' by Shri M.L. Chandak, 2nd Edition, 1972 (May). Note 9 Chap. IV at page 68 reads as under :

'9. Comprehensive Insurance Policy.--

The Comprehensive Insurance Policy is the widest possible insurance policy, which covers the insurers liability in addition to the third person both for bodily injuries and damage to property. It also covers the risks caused by accident, fire, theft or malicious acts.

Under this type of policy the insured may also put his certain conditions, and if they are agreed by the insurer they shall be carried out.'

33. On a very thoughtful consideration of the various principles laid down in the above decisions by their Lordships, I feel that the phrase, 'such amount as is necessary to meet the requirements of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939' can be interpreted in twofold manners. The first method is that the statutory liability is mentioned under Section 95 or Section 96 of the Act. To be precise for the purposes, Section 95(2) of the Act may be referred which reads as under :

'(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 : --

(a) where the vehicle is a goods vehicle, a limit of one lakh and fifty thousand rupees inall, including the liability, if any, arising under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923 (8 of 1923), in respect of the death of, or bodily injury to, employees (other than the driver), not exceeding six in number, being carried in the vehicle.'

Section 96 refers to Section 95 of the Act. If the statutory liability mentioned in the Act is taken to be the amount necessary for the requirement of the Motor Vehicles Act then, in the instant case, the liability would be Rs. 50,000/-, only.

34. The second interpretation or alternative interpretation which is possible is that, whatsoever amount becomes necessary to be indemnified to the owner of the vehicle on account of the award given under the Act would be 'such amount'. The Award is given under Section 110-B of the Act. The basic concept of the insurance is that the insurer must have indemnified the insured whenever any liability is fastened on account of the accident. Depending upon the premium, the insured decides whether the insurance policy should be in distinction to act only or third party making it comprehensive. The term, 'comprehensive' in common parlance would mean that whatever amount is to be paid by the insured, the insurer in pursuance of it or in lieu of the premiums takes upon its liability and responsibility to indemnify the insured. If this view is taken, the comprehensive policy means comprehensive in all sense and, not only in distinction to act only.

35. This later interpretation of comprehensive policy would lead to the consequences that the phrase, 'such amount as is necessary to meet the requirements of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939', will mean that whatever amount the insured is required to pay to the claimants on account of an Award under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939. That would make it unlimited and the only limit would be requirement of the Award for indemnification under the Act.

36. I am of the opinion that both the interpretations are equally logical, legal, possible and feasible.

37. In this era of social justice, the dictum of law which is mere a sort of clarion call to Judges for social justice articulated by Krishna Iyer J., of the Apex Court in a series of decisionsappealing to the Judges to have an edge of beneficial interpretations for 'have-nots' cannot be ignored as a political doctrine bereft of law and justice as critically commented by some Judges. What Iyer has said and restated is inspired by the following classical clarion call of father of nation, Mahatma Gandhiji, duly and aptly utilised by Krishna Iyer J., as his source of inspiration in some of the decisions extracted in Gujarat Steel Tubes v. Guj. Steel Tubes Mazdoor Sabha, (1980) 1 Lab LJ 137 : (AIR 1980 SC 1896). The classical emotional words extracted in the above judgment by Iyer J., of father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhiji echo in this third world jurispurdence with much relevancy, today. Gandhiji said :

'Whenever you are in doubt.......... applythe following test. Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him'.

I am in the present case required to interpret the above phrase in the context of deciding the liability of the insurance company for indemnifying the insured and virtually making the payment to the injured or bereaved family of the deceased in a motor vehicle accident. It is common knowledge that the injured or the claimants-heirs of the deceased in spite of Awards usually are able to realise the lion share only from the insurance company unless the owner of the motor vehicle is the State or Corporation or some company. In this background, many a times and more often than not, the award amount except to the extent of the liability of the insurance company remains as a paper decree only and cannot wipe out the tears of the widow and minors or bereaved parents who lose either their only or the main bread earner in the family.

38. Though, Krishna Iyer J., has gone to new socialistic horizons and dimensions in the field of juristic approach, even Justice Holmes of United States could not resist impact and impulses of the present world dynamism in the judicial field and concerned for the people, at large when he, in his classical words, emphasised that the Judges should not be oblivious to the 'felt necessities of times'.

39. In view of the above, it is obvious that if two options are open, then one beneficial tothe 'have-nots' which the usually injured or claimants of the bereaved family who are in great distress, both, financially and emotionally, should be adopted.

40. Shri Srivastava, the learned counsel for the insurance company invited my attention to the judgment of this Court in New India Insurance Company, Jaipur v. Gopiram Suresh Chand and Jagdish Singh, (S. B. Civil Misc. Appeal No. 25 of 1977, decided on September 17, 1984) and pointed out that the contrary view is being taken in the instant case. But, I do not find that any contrary view has been taken in that case. In such a situation, I would lean towards an equitable interpretation which would be more liberal for the insured so that the principal object of the insurance is carried out both, in letter and spirit. Taking a liberal interpretation in view in favour of the insured, I am inclined to interpret that the phrase and expression, 'such amount as is necessary to meet the requirements of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939' means, 'such amount' which has been awarded under the Motor Vehicles Act against the insured and the indemnification of which would be necessary to meet the requirement of the Award. I would, therefore, hold that this clause of the policy limits the liability to the extent of the Award given by the Tribunal under the Motor Vehicles Act and, not the amount specified in Section 95(2)(a) only.

41. In view of this interpretation, which I have been persuaded to take as beneficial interpretation and liberal in favour of the insured in consonance with the well established canons, principles, I hold that the liability of the insurance company in the present case, would extend to the limit of the Award given by the Tribunal under Section 110-B of the Act.

42. The result of the above discussion is that the impugned Award given by the Tribunal is modified to the extent that, as mentioned above, the compensation amount would be Rs. 2,24,400/- which has been increased from Rs. 55,498.20p. and, all the respondents jointly and severally would be liable to pay this amount increased by this Court.

43. The above amount would be paid by the respondents within a period of three months from today failing which the claimantswould be entitled to get interest at the rate of 12% instead of 3% from the date of application till the date of realisation. In all other respects, the impugned Award given by the Tribunal is confirmed. The appellants would get costs of Rs. 500/- of this appeal from the respondents.

44. In the net result, this appeal is partly allowed, as indicated above.


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