Skip to content


Srinivasa Roadways, Madurai Vs. Saroja and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberA.A.O. No. 262 of 1970, C.M.A. Nos. 263, 291 and 292 of 1970, 282 of 1971 and C.R.P. Nos. 1397, 1398
Judge
Reported inAIR1975Mad126
ActsMotor Vehicles Act, 1939 - Sections 96(2), 110A and 110B
AppellantSrinivasa Roadways, Madurai
RespondentSaroja and ors.
Appellant AdvocateA. Sundaram Iyer and ;P. Balasubramanian, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateK.C. Srinivasan, ;G. Ramaswami, ;M.A. Sadanand, ;Sundararajan, ;Sivaswamy, ;A. Ramanathan, ;R. Vadantham and ;R. Srinivasan, Advs.
Cases ReferredMotor Owners Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Daniel
Excerpt:
.....96 (2), 110a and 110b of motor vehicles act, 1939 - civil revision petition against order of motor accidents claims tribunal - policy undertakes to cover liability in respect to accident caused by person not having effective licence at time of accident and has not been disqualified to hold licence - insurance company cannot in disregard of policy escape liability - insurer not taken objection before tribunal that it was not liable to cover risk involved because driver of bus had no valid licence - insurance company held liable by and under terms of policy - civil revision petition allowed. - - but unfortunately, at the time of crossing, the right portion of one of the vehicles came into contact with the right portion of its opposite number and both got badly damaged. we are..........is in the insured's employ and is driving on his order or with his permission; provided that the person driving holds a licence to drive the motor vehicle or has held and is not disqualified for holding or obtaining such a licence.' what is the construction to be placed on the words 'the person driving holds a licence to drive the motor vehicle or has held and is not disqualified for holding or obtaining such a licence?' this clause clearly contemplates a person who did not hold a valid licence on the date of the accident, but who had held a licence previously and who had not, at the time of accident, been disqualified for holding or obtaining such a licence. the insurance co., with its great business experience, must have thought it right to cover an accident caused by a person who.....
Judgment:

Maharajan, J.

1. These appeals and civil revision petitions are directed against the common order of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Madurai, in M. A. C. O. P. 75 and 143 to 145 of 1968. On 3-9-1967. at about 5-30 p. m., between milestones 274/4 and 274/5. in Madurai-Dindi-gul road, there was a collision between the bus MDU 6991 belonging to the Kodai-kanal Motor Union (Pte) Ltd., and lorry MDA 1440 belonging to Srinivasa Roadways Ltd. A number of persons were inside the Bus as passengers at the time of the collision and ten of the passengers re-ceived injuries and one of them. Prof. Sundaramoorthy. succumbed to his injuries in the hospital about two weeks after the accident. The scene of the accident is a national highway, the tarred portion of which is 22ft. 4 inches wide. There is a mud portion about 4 ft. wide, on either side of the road. The total width of the road at the scene of accident would therefore be about 30 ft. 4 inches. The road is wide enough, therefore, to allow free passage for a lorrv and a bus moving in opposite directions. If each of the vehicles had been driven on its right side of the road, there would have been a clearance of at least 14 ft. in between the crossing vehicles. But unfortunately, at the time of crossing, the right portion of one of the vehicles came into contact with the right portion of its opposite number and both got badly damaged.

2. The Sub-Inspector of Police,R. W. 2, came to the scene and prepared a rough sketch Ex. B-7. The Motor Vehicles Inspector. R. W. 4, visited the scene the next dav and prepared a report as per Ex. B-19. Strangely enough, neither of them is able to say. from the marks on the road and the relative positions of the vehicles, which of the drivers was responsible for this tragic collision. We have therefore to fall back upon the oral evidence on record in order to understand how the collision could have happened.

3. As many as five eve witnesses to the accident were examined by both the parties and they are P. Ws. 2. 5 and 7, who were passengers in the bus and who got injured. R. W. 1, the driver of the bus and R. W. 5, the driver of the lorrv.

(His Lordship discussed the evidence and proceeded)

We therefore, disagree with the Tribunal and hold that neither of the reasons given by it for rejecting the evidence of P. Ws. 2, 5 and 7 is sound. We are satisfied that their evidence is acceptable and shall be acted upon, in which case we have no option but to hold that it was the driver of the bus MDU 6991 who was responsible for the accident by his rash and negligent driving.

4. It would then follow that the Kodaikanal Motor Union (P.) Ltd.. Am-mayanaickanur, will be vicariouslv liable to oav compensation for the victims of the accident. The insurer of Kodaikanal Motor Union (P.) Ltd. is the Motor Owners Insurance Co. Ltd., Belgaum. Though the insurer did not take the objection before the Tribunal that it was not liable to cover the risks involved in the case, because the driver of the bus had no valid licence at the time of theaccident, this objection has been taken before us on foot of an admission made by the driver of the bus himself, R. W. 1. to the effect that though he had been holding a licence previously, he had failed to renew the licence for the period from 16-10-1966 upto 29-9-1967 and that he actually renewed the licence only with effect from 30-9-1967. Let us assume that R. W. 1, the bus driver, did not have an effective licence on the date of the accident. The question arises whether this circumstance would exonerate the insurer of the liability to pav compensation. Reference has been made by learned counsel for the Insurance Co. to Section 96 of the Motor Vehicles Act. That section provides that an insurer shall be entitled to defend the action on anv of the following grounds, namely,

'96 (2) (a) ..... or (b) that therehas been a breach of a specified condition of the policy, beine one of the following conditions, namely, (i) a condition ex-cludine the use of the vehicles-- (a) .....

(b) ..... (c) ..... (d) .....

(ii) a condition excluding driving by a named person or persons or by any person who is not duly licensed, or by anv person who has been disaualified for holding or obtaining a driving licence during the period of disqualification.' While the above provision makes it clear that the right of the Insurance Co. to defend is restricted to the various conditions set out in this sub-section, it is also clear from the sub-section that none of those defences will be available to the Insur-ance Co. unless it incorporates these conditions in the policy. The expression in Clause, (b) of Section 96 (2) 'that there has been breach of a specified condition of the policy, being one of the following conditions' reinforces this conclusion. All that the section does is to enumerate the conditions, which the Insurance Co. is at liberty to incorporate in the policy. What the Act in effect tells the Insurance. Co is:

'There are certain risks which under the statute, you are bound to cover. There are certain other risks, which by negotiating with the owner of the vehicle vou may choose to cover at your option, though under the statute vou are not bound to cover the same'. Section 96 enables the Insurance Co. to defend an action against it on the ground that there has been a breach of a specified condition of the policy and enables the company to incorporate in the Policy any of the conditions mentioned in sub-clause Oil of Clause (b) of Section 96 (2) namely.

'a condition excluding driving by a named person or persons or by anv person who is not dulv licenced, or by anyperson who has been disaualified for holding or obtaining a driving licence during the period of disqualification.' This clause, it may be noted, contains three sub-clauses which are disjunctive, namely, (1) excluding driving by a named person or persons: or (2) excluding driving by any person who is not dulv licensed; or (3) excluding driving by any person who has been disqualified for holding or obtaining a driving licence during the period of disqualification. The first clause permits an Insurance Co. to rid itself of the liability by providing that if an accident occurs while a named person drives the vehicle, the companv shall not be liable to indemnify the owner. The second clause enables the Insurance-Co. to disclaim liability in cases where at the time of accident, the driver is a per-son who does not hold a licence duly granted to him. The third clause enables the Insurance Co. to disclaim liability in cases where during the accident the vehicle was driven by a Person who might not hold a valid licence at the time of the accident, but who had held a licence previously, but who had not been disqualified for holding or obtaining it. In other words, the three sub-clauses in Section 96 (2) (b) (ii) indicate the amplitude of permissible exclusion. As the sub-clauses are disjunctive, an option is given to the Insurance Co. to exclude at its discretion driving either by a named person or by a Person who is not duly licenced or by a person who has been disqualified for holding or obtaining a driving licence or to exclude driving by all these three classes of persons. In other words, it is open to the Insurance Co. to refuse to cover a risk brought about by a person like R. 1 in this case, who. at the time of the accident, had held a licence, but had no effective licence covering the period of the accident. But. unfortunately, the Insurance Co, has in this case exercised its option even to include a person who had held a licence prior to the date of the accident (that is to say, a licence that had expired prior to the date of the accident) and vet was not disaualified for holding or obtaining such a licence at the time of the accident. The Insurance policy issued by the Motor Owners Insurance Co. Ltd.. in this case has been marked as Ex. B-8. In the schedule to this policy, the limitations as to use of the bus have been defined, and it is stipulated that

'the vehicle may be driven either by the Insured or any other person provided he is in the insured's employ and is driving on his order or with his Permission; provided that the person driving holds a licence to drive the motor vehicle Or has held and is not disqualified for holding or obtaining such a licence.'

What is the construction to be placed on the words 'the person driving holds a licence to drive the motor vehicle or has held and is not disqualified for holding or obtaining such a licence?' This clause clearly contemplates a person who did not hold a valid licence on the date of the accident, but who had held a licence previously and who had not, at the time of accident, been disqualified for holding or obtaining such a licence. The Insurance Co., with its great business experience, must have thought it right to cover an accident caused by a person who has had considerable driving experience, and yet due to inadvertence or absentmindedness, has not chosen to renew that licence during the period allowed by law and has been involved in an accident while he had not yet obtained a renewal of the licence. Evidently, the Insurance Co. trusts experienced drivers not to drive the vehicle rashly and negligently, this expectation resting upon their past performance rather than upon the technical, but unimportant question whether they have been careful and alert enough to renew the licence within the period allowed by law. Learned counsel for the Insurance Co. says that the proviso should be construed in such a way as to exclude the intention of the Insurance Co. to cover driving by a person who did not hold an effective licence at the time of the accident. We are entirely at a loss to accept such a construction. The Insurance Co. is given the option to impose conditions which it is permitted by the statute to impose, and to exclude liability when the vehicle is driven by a person who is not duly licensed at the time of the accident. If the Company does not take advantage of the permissible conditions and with its eves open enters into a contract, whereby it undertakes to cover risks which it need not cover under Section 96 of the Act. then it cannot escape liability. In this case, it is the terms of the policy that ought to guide us and those terms make it clear that the Company would be liable even in a case where a driver has held a licence previously but did not hold an effective licence at the time of the accident and has not been disqualified at the time of the accident for holding or obtaining such a licence. Learned counsel for the Insurance Co. relies upon the decision of Nataraian. J. in the Motor Owners Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Muniswami, C. M. A. 243 of 1969 (Mad) where the learned Judge, while interpreting Section 96 (2) of the Act, has made the following observations :

'The words 'duly licensed' in Section 96 (2) of the Act clearly go to show that in order to attract the term of the policy, the driver of the vehicle, on the date of the accident, must be a person who isduly licensed or who is not disqualified for holding or obtaining a driving licence. The currency of the driving licence is a condition precedent to the attraction of the liability of the Insurance Co., under the terms of the policy of insurance. The disqualification referred to in the sub-clause will have reference only to a cur-rent licence held by the driver on the date of the accident or a licence obtained by the driver during the period of such disqualification. It certainly cannot have any reference to a date expired licence.'

5, After making these observations, with which we respectfullv disagree, the learned Judge relied upon the ruling of Raghavan, J. in Motor Owners Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Daniel, : AIR1972Mad15 . We do not think that the ruling of Raghavan J. affords any support to the proposition laid down by Nataraian, J. It can be dis-tinguished on the around that the policy which Raghavan. J. was called upon to interpret incorporated all the conditions laid down in Section 96 (2) (b) (ii). The thing to look into is the policy and the question to ask is, 'Does the Policy incorporate any or all of the conditions which the statute permits an Insurance Co. to incorporate?' If it incorporates all the conditions mentioned in the section, including the one which excludes driving by a person who is not duly licensed at the time of the accidsnt, the Insurer will be exonerated of liability. If. on the other hand, the policy incorporates only some of the conditions and omits the others mentioned in the statute, the Insurer cannot resist liabilitv on the ground that though the policy has omitted the conditions, the conditions are there in the statute. If, as in this case, all the conditions laid down in the section are not reproduced in the policv. and the policy positively undertakes to cover liabilitv in respect of an accident caused by a person, who though not having an effective licence at the time of the accident, has not been disqualified to hold a licence, the Company cannot, in disregard of its policy, fall back upon the section and say that despite the contract it has entered into to the contrary, it must be exonerated of liabilitv. We therefore hold that the Motor Owners Insurance Co, Ltd.. Belgaum, is liable, by and under the terms of the policy issued by it. to cover the risk that has occurred in this case. Needless to add that its liability will be limited, to Rs. 2.000 per passenger and the cumulative liabilitv of the company for the entire accident would be limited to Rs. 20,000. At the time of the accident the relevant section had not been amended to enlarge the total liability to Rs. 50,000.

6. We shall next examine the reasonableness of the compensation that has been awarded by the tribunal. So far as the deceased Prof. Sundaramurthi is concerned, the claimants in O. P. 75 of 1968 -- appellants in C. M. A. 282 of 1971 --who are the widow, children and mother of the deceased, have been awarded a compensation of Rs. 55,000. The deceased was a Prof, of English employed in G. T. N. College, Dindiaul, drawing a basic pay of Rs. 420 per mensem and dearness allowance of Rs. 120 per month. He was aged 41 at the time of his death. But Jor the accident, he could have lived . for many more vears. and he could have been earning upto his 58th or 60th year. He had also chances of promotion. He sustained very serious iniuries, as a result of which he died two weeks after the accident. The Tribunal was wrong in awarding any compensation for the mental agonv of the survivors. It ought to have awarded compensation for the physical and mental agony undergone by the victim. The evidence shows that he was spending Rs. 250 every month upon his dependents. The value of dependency may be put at about Rs. 4,000 per year. Having regard to his chances of promotion, and having regard to the fact that his wife is only 30 years old and may live for another 30 years, and taking into account other relevant factors such as receipt of the provident fund by the widow and the need for making a discount for lump sum of payment of compensation, the amount of Rs. 55.000 fixed by the Tribunal cannot be said to be unreasonably high. We therefore confirm that figure. Out of this amount of Rs, 55.000. only a sum of Rs. 2,000 would be payable by the Motor Owners Insurance Co. Ltd., and the balance by the Kodaikanal Motor Union (Pvt.) Ltd.

7. Next we may deal with the compensation awarded to the claimant in O. P. 143 of 1968. The Tribunal has fixed a compensation of Rs. 250 for the iniuries sustained by Jayachandran, the petitioner in O. P. 143 of 1968. He has not prefer-ed any appeal. We think the compensation awarded to him is reasonable, and we confirm it This amount will be payable by the Motor Owners Insurance Co. Ltd.

8. Saroia. the petitioner in O. P. 144 of 1968, has been awarded a compensation of Rs. 10,000. She is 35 years old. During the accident her left leg below the knee was broken and she was put in plaster. Three months later, when the plaster was removed, it was found that the bones had not ioined, whereupon she was treated in the hospital at Madurai. She came to the hospital by taxi everytime and she was given special caliper. The medical evidence shows that she sustained a compound fracture of both the bones of the left leg and has sustained a permanent 20% disability. It is the evidence of P.W. 4, the Orthopaedic Surgeon attached to the Government Erskine Hospital, that without wearing caliper, she would tumble down and that in the present state of her disability she cannot work like any other normal person. The injury has permanently affected her gait. The mental agony suffered by her must have been considerable and she has to be compensated for the permanent disability which she has suffered, as well as for the expenses of medical treatment and for taxi charges. Taking all these factors into account, the tribunal has fixed a compensation at Rs. 10,000 which we think is quite reasonable. Out of this amount, a sum of Rs. 2,000 will be paid by the Motor Owners Insurance Co. Ltd., and the bal-lance of Rs. 8,000 will be paid by the Kodaikanal Motor Union (P.) Ltd.

9. Swaminathan, the petitioner in O. p. 145 of 1968. sustained only minor injuries and he has been awarded a sum of Rs. 1,000 by way of compensation. We see no reason to interfere with the quantum of compensation awarded to him. This amount will be payable by the Motor Owners Insurance Co. Ltd.

10. Out of the amount of Rupees 55,000 awarded to the claimants in O. P. 75 of 1968, a sum of Rs. 7,000 will be Paid to Sangamrnal, the 4th petitioner, and the balance of Rs. 48,000 will be divided equally among petitioners 1 to 3. The shares of the minors Anusuya and Kannan will remain invested in any nationalised bank so lone as they continue to be minors. Thylambal, the 1st petitioner, will be entitled to withdraw her share of Rs, 16,000 and to draw interest from the amounts invested in the names of her minor children for the purpose of meeting the expenses of maintaining them.

11. The appeals and the civil revision petitions preferred by the owner of Srinivasa Roadways, namely C. M. As. 262 and 263 of 1970 and C. R. Ps. 1397 and 1398 of 1970 are allowed as indicated above. So also the two appeals and C. R. Ps. preferred by the insurer of the lorry, namely, C. M As. 291 and 292 of 1970 and C. R. Ps. 1598 and 1599 of 1970 are allowed as indicated above. C. M. A. 282 of 1971 filed by the dependants of Sundaramurthi for enhancement of the compensation is dismissed. There will be no order as to costs.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //