Insurance company

Insurance company not liable to pay compensation if heavy goods vehicle is driven by person with light motor vehicle license: Karnataka High Court

The Karnataka High Court has said that the insurance company will not be liable to pay compensation if a heavy truck is driven by someone with a light motor vehicle license.

A single bench of judges of Justice S Vishwajit Shetty while allowing in part an appeal by a dump truck owner, Mahantesh, said:

“The vehicle in question which is classified as a heavy goods vehicle comes within the meaning of section 2(16) of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 because the gross vehicle weight of the vehicle unquestionably exceeds 12,000kg. In the circumstances, the Court was fully justified in finding that the vehicle at fault was used in violation of the terms and conditions of the policy and that, therefore, the insurer of the vehicle at fault was not liable to pay the indemnity.”

Submissions from petitioners:

The appellant had challenged the order of the Road Accidents Compensation Tribunal of 03.10.2018. It was argued by the claimants that the Court erred in exonerating the liability of the insurer of the offending truck, although at the date of the accident, the insurance policy issued by the 3rd defendant insurer was in vigor.

Furthermore, it was said that the Tribunal only exonerated the liability of the insurer on the grounds that the driver of the offending lorry did not have a valid and valid driver’s license to drive a heavy goods vehicle on the date of the accident. However, it is true that the driver of the offending dump truck had a light motor vehicle driving license and since the empty weight of the offending truck being less than 7,500 kg, the offending vehicle must be considered a motor vehicle light and the responsibility to pay compensation is bound to be saddled on the insurer of the offending dump truck.

The appellants relied on the extract report from the B register which indicates that the curb weight of the vehicle, as it appeared, is only 6,190 kg.

The petitioner also claimed that the deceased was around 2 years old at the time of the accident and hence the claimants are only entitled to a sum of Rs. 2,75,000 as compensation had having regard to the judgment of the Apex Court in Rajendra Singh and others V/s National Insurance Company Limited and others reported in (2020) 7 SCC 256.

The insurance company objected to the means:

It was said that the truck driver did not have a heavy goods vehicle driving license and that on the date of the accident he only held a VL driving licence. The vehicle in question is a transport vehicle and the gross vehicle weight is well over 7,500 kg. The Court therefore rightly exonerates the insurer from liability.

Court findings:

The bench relied on the judgment of the Supreme Court in Mukund Dewangan V/s Oriental Insurance Company Limited reported in (2017) 14 SCC 663, in which it was held that a transport vehicle and an omnibus , the gross vehicle weight of which does not correspond to exceed 7,500 kg would be a light motor vehicle and the holder of the driving license to drive the class of light motor vehicle as provided for in Article 10, paragraph 2, point d), is competent to drive a transport vehicle or an omnibus whose gross vehicle weight does not exceed 7500 kg.

The bench observed,

“The word ‘gross vehicle weight’ as defined in section 2(15) of the Act means, in respect of any vehicle, the total vehicle weight and load certified and recorded by the authority of registration as authorized for this vehicle. Ex. R1 which is the extract from the “B” register of the offending vehicle would demonstrate that the registered laden weight of the said vehicle is 16,200 kg, i.e. much more than 7,500 kg.”

He added,

“Thus, the gross weight of the incriminated vehicle being considered to be 16,200 kg, said vehicle must be considered as a heavy vehicle with regard to article 2, paragraph 16, of the law, which stipulates that any transport of goods gross weight whose weight exceeds 12,000 kg would be considered heavy weight.”

Further, the court referring to the Supreme Court Judgment in the case of Kurvan Ansari alias Kurvan Ali and another V/s Shyam Kishore Murmu and another, Civil Appeal No. 6902 of 2021 decided on 16.11.2021, wherein the court increased the fictitious income to Rs 25,000 and after applying the multiplier of “15” as prescribed under Schedule II of Section 163-A of the Act, a compensation of Rs. 3, 75,000/- was awarded for loss of dependency.

The bench said, “In the present case, the same principle should be applied and compensation of Rs. 3,75,000/- is therefore awarded to the claimants for loss of dependency. Towards the loss of the subsidiary consortium, the claimants are entitled to a sum of `40 000/- each and for funeral expenses they are entitled to another sum of `15,000/-.Therefore, in total they are entitled to compensation of Rs. 4,70,000/- against Rs. 5, 90,000/- granted by the Tribunal.”

He added “The indemnity granted to the claimants will bear interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the date of the claim until it is made.

Case Title: Mahantesh v. Netharavati

Case no.: AMF no. 100096/2019 (MV)

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 74

Order date: February 25, 2022

Appearance: BMPatil lawyer for the appellant; ICPatil Lawyer, FOR R3; Lawyer Subhash J. Baddi, R4

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