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Union of India (Uoi) and anr. Vs. Shri Labh Chand Sharma and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtHimachal Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Misc. First Appeal No. 42 of 1962
Judge
Reported inAIR1963HP12
ActsMotor Vehicles Act, 1939 - Sections 94(1), 95, 110(1) and 110F; ;Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) , 1908 - Section 9
AppellantUnion of India (Uoi) and anr.
RespondentShri Labh Chand Sharma and ors.
Appellant Advocate K.C. Pandit, Govt. Adv.
Respondent Advocate Chhabil Das, Adv.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases ReferredVanguard Fire and General Insurance Co. Ltd v. Sarla Devi
Excerpt:
- .....and qua the owner its liability was not limited to the limits laid down in section 95 of the motor vehicles act. the second reason assigned by it was that the language in which sub-section (2) of section 110 (d) of the aforesaid act was couched indicated that a tribunal could award compensation in excess of rs. 2,000/- also. it accordingly awarded a sum of rs. 6,000/- as compensation.5. the first contention advanced on behalf of the appellants is that the transport department was an insurer and as such the tribunal was incompetent to award compensation in excess of the limits laid down in section 95 of the motor vehicles act.6. sub-section (1) of section 94 of the motor vehicles act makes it obligatory for every person plying a motor vehicle in a public place to have it insured.....
Judgment:

C.B. Capoor, J.C.

1. This first appeal by the Union of India and Himachal Pradesh Administration through its transport department is directed against an order made by Shri Chet Ram, Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal Mahasu, Sirmur, Bilas-pur and Kinnaur districts, whereby a sum of Rs. 6,000/- was awarded as compensation to the respondents.

2. Gusaon Ram, the husband of respondent No. 3 and the father of respondents Nos. 1 and 2, boarded the Himachal Pradesh Government Transport bus No. Him-971 at Simla on 27-1-1961. The bus was bound for Bilaspur and the aforesaid Gusaon Ram was to travel upto Khunera. When the aforesaid bus reached near Shalaghat on the Simla-Mandi road at about 4.30 P.M. it met with an accident and the aforesaid Gusaon Ram sustained serious injuries in his chest and on his head and breathed his last while he was being taken to the hospital at Arki. The respondents submitted an application claiming a sum of Rs. 10,000/- as damages on account of the loss sustained by them as a result of the death of the aforesaid Gusaon Ram. The deceased was employed as a head-bearer by the Grand Hotel Simla and also carried on cultivation in his village and it was alleged that his monthly income was Rs. 150/-. At the date of the accident he was about 50 years old.

3. The application was resisted by the appellants on the grounds that the respondents were not the legal representatives of Gusaon Ram and that in any view of the case the amount of compensation claimed was excessive and could not exceed Rs. 2,000/-.

4. The Tribunal reached the conclusion that the respondents were the legal representatives of the deceased Gusaon Ram, and that finding has not been challenged in this appeal. It further held that Gusaon Ram might well be expected to have lived for another 10 years if the accident had not happened and that as a result of his death the family has suffered a loss of Rs. 50/- p.m. It rejected the contention advanced on behalf of the appellants that it was not within his powers to award compensation in excess of Rs. 2,000/-. The first reason assigned by it for arriving at the aforesaid conclusion was that in Himachal Pradesh transport has been nationalized and the buses are not insured against third party risks and the department was both an insurer and assured and as such its liability was not limited to Rs. 2,000/- only.

What the learned Tribunal meant was that the department was both an insurer and owner of the vehicles and qua the owner its liability was not limited to the limits laid down in Section 95 of the Motor Vehicles Act. The second reason assigned by it was that the language in which Sub-section (2) of Section 110 (d) of the aforesaid Act was couched indicated that a Tribunal could award compensation in excess of Rs. 2,000/- also. It accordingly awarded a sum of Rs. 6,000/- as compensation.

5. The first contention advanced on behalf of the appellants is that the transport department was an insurer and as such the Tribunal was incompetent to award compensation in excess of the limits laid down in Section 95 of the Motor Vehicles Act.

6. Sub-section (1) of Section 94 of the Motor Vehicles Act makes it obligatory for every person plying a motor vehicle in a public place to have it insured against third party risk and Sub-section (3) empowers the appropriate Government to exempt from the operation of Sub-section (1) any vehicle owned inter alia by a State Transport undertaking within the meaning of Section 68A. The proviso to Sub-section (3) runs as below:

'Provided that no such order shall be made in relation to any such authority unless a fund has been established and is maintained by that authority in accordance with the rules made in that behalf under this Act for meeting any liability arising out of the use of any vehicle of that authority which that authority or any person in its employment may incur to third parties.'

7. It is not disputed that in Himachal Pradesh Transport has been nationalized and that the State transport undertaking has been exempted from the operation of Sub-section (1) of Section 94 of the Motor Vehicles Act. I understand that no rules have been framed by the Himachal Pradesh Administration for the establishment and maintenance of a fund for meeting any liability arising out of the use of any vehicle belonging to the transport department.

8. Section 95 of the Motor Vehicles Act enumerates the requirements of policies and limits of liability. It has inter alia been provided in thatsection that subject to the proviso to Sub-section (1) a policy of insurance shall cover any liability incurred in respect of any one accident upto the following limits namely:

(a)...... ...... ...... ......

(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, in respect of persons other than passengers carried for hire or reward, a limit of Rs. 20,000/-; and in respect of passengers a limit of Rs. 20,000/-in all, and Rs. 4,000/- in respect of any individual passenger, if the vehicle is registered to carry not more than six passengers excluding the driver or Rs. 2,000/- in respect of an individual passenger, if the vehicle is registered to carry more than six passengers excluding the driver.

9. I put it to the learned counsel for the appellants to invite my attention to any provision of law contained in the Motor Vehicles Act which might indicate that a State transport undertaking exempted from the operation of Sub-section (1) of Section 94 of the aforesaid Act is an insurer and he was unable to point out any such specific provision. He, however, urged that the requirement of establishing and maintaining a fund for meeting any liability arising out of the use of any vehicle as a condition precedent to the granting of exemption from the operation of Sub-section (1) of Section 94 of the aforesaid Act indicated that the position of the undertaking exempted was that of an insurer and as such the limits of liability laid down in Section 95 governed such an undertaking. I am, however, unable to accede to that contention.

10. It is significant that it TS to meet 'any liability' arising out of the use of any vehicle that a fund is required to be established and maintained and the words 'any liability' are wide enough to include a liability arising under law and are not limited to a liability of an insurer under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act. If the intention of the Legislature had been that the liability of a State transport undertaking exempted from the operation of Sub-section (1) of Section 94 will be at par with the liability of an insurer under Section 95 such an intention would have been made clear by making a specific provision that the liability of the owner of a motor vehicle exempted from the operation of Sub-section (1) will be subject to the limits of liability laid down in Section 95. The object underlying the requirement as to the establishment and maintenance of a fund appears to be that if a motor vehicle belonging to any authority exempted from the operation of Sub-section (1) is involved in an accident as a result of which loss has been sustained by third parties an earmarked fund may be readily available to meet their claims.

In the absence of a specific provision indicating that the capacity of an authority exempted from the operation of Sub-section (1) of Section 94 is that of an insurer I find it extremely difficult to uphold the contention advanced on behalf of the appellants that the capacity of the Himachal Pradesh transport department was that of an insurer and as such compensation in excess of the limits laid down in Section 95 could not be awarded against it and that part of the conclusion reached by the learned ClaimsTribunal that the capacity of the Himachal Pradesh Transport department was that of an insurer also is not endorsed. I, however, agree with the other part of the conclusion arrived at by the learned Tribunal that the appellants were liable to pay compensation qua the owners of the vehicle involved in the accident. Under the Fatal Accidents Act 1855, or for the matter of that under the Motor Vehicles Act the liability of the owner of the vehicle involved in accident and resulting in fatal injuries to a third person is not limited and the extent and quantum of liability depends upon the peculiar facts and circumstances of each case.

As to the cases of 'The Motor and General Insurance Co., Ltd. Calcutta v. Hota Ram, 63 Pun LR 331: (AIR 1961 Punj 190) and 'Vanguard Fire and General Insurance Co. Ltd v. Sarla Devi, AIR 1959 Punj 297, cited at the Bar, suffice it to say that they are distinguishable from the facts of the instant case inasmuch as therein the motor vehicle involved in the accident was insured with an authorized insurer. It is, therefore, not correct to urge that the respondents were not entitled to be awarded compensation in excess of Rs. 2,000/-.

11. During the course of arguments the learned counsel for the appellants conceded that the capacity of the appellants was not that of insurers and indeed it was so stated in the first paragraph of the grounds of appeal which runs as below:

'The entire proceedings and the award of the Claims Tribunal are void as it could award compensation against insurers only. The vehicle involved in the accident was not under any insurance policy.'

12. The second point urged on behalf of the appellants has been that the Claims Tribunal has no jurisdiction to award compensation in respect of accidents involving the death of or bodily injury to persons arising out of the use of motor vehicles which are not insured.

13. The relevant section of the Motor Vehicles Act is 110(1) and it reads as below:

'A State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, constitute one or more Motor Accident Claims Tribunals (hereinafter referred to as Claims Tribunals) for such area as may be specified in the notification for the purpose of adjudicating upon claims for compensation in respect of accidents involving the death of, or bodily injury to, persons arising out of the use of motor vehicles.'

14. It will have been noticed that The aforesaid section is not limited to claims against insurers only rather the function of a Motor Accident Claims Tribunal is to adjudicate upon claims for compensation in respect of accidents involving the death of or bodily injury to persons arising out of the use of motor vehicles. If the intention of the Legislature had been to confine the powers of the Claims Tribunal to the adjudication of claims for compensation against the insurers of the motor vehicles only nothing would have been easier than to have used the words 'against the insurer' after the words 'claims for compensation'.

15. It has been contended on behalf of the appellants that as Section 110 finds place in the chapter headed as 'Insurance of Motor Vehiclesagainst third party risks' it should be held that the intention of the Legislature was that the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal should adjudicate upon those claims only which are lodged against the insurers of the motor vehicles against third party risks. According to the well-established canons of interpretation the heading of a chapter or marginal notes to a section are no part of the sections and they cannot control the clear language in which the sections are couched.

16. 'The headings prefixed to sections or sets of section are regarded as preambles to those sections' and 'a preamble of a statute cannot either restrict or extend the enacting part when the language and the object and scope of the Act are not open to doubt.' 'The general rule of law as to marginal notes at any rate in public general Acts of Parliament is founded upon the principle that those notes are inserted not by Parliament nor under the authority of Parliament', but by irresponsible persons; see Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes, Ninth Edition, pp. 54, 45 and 48.

17. Section 110 (1) of the Motor Vehicles Act is of wide amplitude and it confers jurisdiction upon the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal to adjudicate upon any claim for (compensation in respect of accidents causing death of or bodily injury to persons arising out of the use of a motor vehicle and there can be no escape from the conclusion that the cognizance of the Civil Courts is barred to entertain claims for compensation arising out of the use of a motor vehicle if a Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal has been constituted by the State Government in accordance with the aforesaid section.

18. In conclusion, the appeal fails and is hereby dismissed with costs.


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