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A valid driving licence of the driver, if expired, insured[Owner] is liable [Compensation Act]-SC

BELI RAM v. RAJENDRA KUMAR &ANR., CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 7220-7221 OF 2011, September 23, 2020.

The bench consisting of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Krishna Murari dismissed the appeal and pronounced a judgment stating that the initial lack of care by the first respondent in not renewing the driving licence would be present, but the lack of care of the appellant as the employer would also arise. Proceedings here being under the Compensation Act, the consequences are not flowing to the first respondent as the initial negligent person.

The main question of law in this case was whether in case of a valid driving licence, if the licence has expired, the insured is absolved of its liability.

The first respondent while driving a truck owned by the appellant met with an accident and was disabled by 20 per cent. The first respondent filed a petition seeking compensation from the appellant under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923 and also received an award of Rs. 94, 464 for the injuries suffered and Rs. 67,313 towards medical expenses. This compensation was mulled upon the second respondent the insurer and the interest were directed to be paid by the appellant.

The High Court weighed that by driving with non-validity license the appellant has made a material breach of the insurance policy. Thus the High Court took note on section 4 of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923. An amount equal to sixty per cent of the monthly wages of the injured workman multiplied by the relevant factor an amount of ninety thousand rupees, whichever is more in the case where permanent total disability results from injury (para 5). Thus the appeals of the insurer and the claimant were allowed.

The appellant relied on the Judgement of this Court in the case of Nirmala Kothari v. United India Insurance Company Limited, with the question of law as to what is the extent of care or diligence the employer or the insurer must have while employing a driver. And it was held as if the employer finds the driver to be competent and satisfied himself that the driver as driving licence under the sec 149(2)(a)(ⅱ) the insurance company would be liable under the policy. However if the insurance company can prove that insure was aware of the fake licence, the insurance company no longer would be liable (para 8).

The learned counsel of both the appellant and respondent 2 stated that there was no direct point on the question as to the consequence of valid driving licence has expired. They also commenced the view of the Court in the Swaram Singh case that examined the meaning of ‘duly licensed’ used in the MV Act, 1988. They also commenced the judgment of Nirmala Kothari case. Thus the appellant stated that he had taken adequate care by verifying the driver at the time of employment. It was held that the appellant was absolved of the responsibility of verifying of the licence renewal and it is the duty of the employer to know the validity of the driving licence. And the Court also held that it is not a case where the licence has not been renewed for a short period of time in the case of Swaran Singh where the benefit was given to the third party by burdening the insurance company but in the instant case the licence has not been renewed for three years.

The Court stated that in this case, it is not dealing under MV Act in the proceedings of sharing the burden between the appellant and the respondent but under the Compensation Act which provides immediate succor.

The Court also referred to Tata General Insurance Co. Ltd. V. Akansha & Ors, which held that since no evidence had been led in this behalf, a presumption was drawn that there was a willful and conscious breach of terms and conditions of the insurance policy (para 18).

The Court also quoted The Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. V. Manoj Kumar & Ors. which held that in the absence of a valid driving licence, the vehicle was being driven in breach of the condition of the policy, requiring the vehicle was being driven by a person who is duly licensed and thus there was a breach of sec 149(2)(a)(ⅱ) of the MV Act (para 19).

In National Insurance Co.Ltd. v. Hem Raj & Ors and Swaran Singh were also stated that if two interpretations were possible, it was opined that the one is in favour of claimant should be given (para 21).

Thus the Court held that as in the present case the appellant had permitted the first respondent to drive the truck with an expired licence which shows his lack of responsibility and therefore he his responsible and consequent liability for letting the driver who had an expired licence to drive.

Therefore the appeal was dismissed.

K. Ilakkiya

View/ Download the Judgment: BELI RAM v. RAJENDRA KUMAR &ANR.



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