High Court of Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh
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National Insurance Company Limited. v. Kaushalaya Devi & Ors. - FAO-5237-2006  RD-P&H 11729 (1 December 2006)
(1) F.A.O. No.5237 of 2006
National Insurance Company Limited.
Kaushalaya Devi and others.
(2) F.A.O. No.5238 of 2006
National Insurance Company Limited.
Narender Kaur and others.
CORAM: Hon'ble Mr.Justice Uma Nath Singh
Hon'ble Mr.Justice Mahesh Grover
Date of Decision: 28.11.2006
Present: Shri Suman Jain, Advocate for the appellant.
F.A.O.No.5237 of 2006
The aforementioned two appeals have been preferred by the Insurance Company against a common award dated 31.7.2006 of Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Kurukshetra (hereinafter described as `the Tribunal') passed in M.A.C.T. Case Nos. 213 and 214 of 2005.
In a motor-vehicular accident which is alleged to have occurred on 10.6.2003, two persons, namely, Balwinder Singh and Ajaib Singh, who were travelling in the trolley of tractor No.PB-13C-9814 being driven by one Gurdeep Singh, lost their lives. After causing the accident, the driver of the offending vehicle being truck (No.HR-45-2935), namely, Bhupinder Singh, ran away from the spot. Two claim petitions ensued and the Tribunal awarded a sum of Rs.3,10,000/- each to the dependents of Balwinder Singh and Ajaib Singh along with interest at the rate of 7.5% per annum from the date of filing of the petitions till the date of realisation. The driver, owner and the appellant, the insurer of the offending vehicle, were held jointly and severally liable to satisfy the award.
Learned counsel for the appellant contended that there was collusion between the claimants and the owner of the offending vehicle and that there was a breach of conditions of insurance policy as its driver was not having a valid driving licence. That apart, the quantum of compensation has also been questioned.
We have heard learned counsel for the appellant and have perused the award.
While persisting with his first contention regarding the collusion between the claimants and the owner of the offending vehicle, F.A.O.No.5237 of 2006
learned counsel for the appellant referred to the observations of the Tribunal while allowing the application of the Insurance Company under section 170 of the Motor Vehicles Act,1988 (for short, `the Act') to contend that the Tribunal had itself held that the claim petitions were collusive, but went on to negative the same plea while passing the award. The observations are as follows:-
"In spite thereof, respondent No. 1 and 2 have admitted the factum of accident in collusion with the claimants. By its very nature, there cannot be direct evidence of collusion and it has to be inferred from circumstances. The aforesaid circumstances prima facie show collusion of respondent No. 1 and 2 with the claimants. Accordingly, the applications under disposal are accepted and respondent No.3 insurer is permitted to contest the case on all grounds including those available to respondent No.1 and 2."
The contention of the learned counsel for the appellant is, however, misplaced. The observations of the Tribunal while deciding an application under Section 170 of the Act cannot be termed to be a conclusive finding. The scope of the application moved under Section 170 is only to permit the Insurance Company to take up all defences including the ones which pertain to the breach of conditions of policy as normally permissible to it under the Act. But, to establish collusion, a specific finding has to be given at the time of concluding the award by the Tribunal after appraisal of the evidence before it. A perusal of the impugned award reveals that the Tribunal has specifically held that there was no evidence to F.A.O.No.5237 of 2006
substantiate the plea of collusion as raised by the learned counsel for the appellant. Mere admission of the factum of accident is not indicative of any collusion. It has to be inferred from other attending circumstances which may cast a shroud of suspicion on the version of the claimants. The driver of the offending vehicle, despite admitting the accident, has denied his role in causing it. Besides, the police recorded the statement of Gurdeep Singh, who was driver of the tractor-trolley which was hit by the offending vehicle on 10.6.2003, i.e., the date of accident itself and a criminal case was also registered against driver-Bhupinder Singh wherein charges have been framed. In view of these overwhelming facts, admission of the accident would not imply any collusion as denial thereof would have been meaningless. There is, thus, no merit in the contention raised by the learned counsel for the appellant which is accordingly rejected.
Regarding the second contention pertaining to the driving licence of the driver of the offending vehicle, there is no evidence led by the appellant to establish the fact that it was invalid. The onus to prove it rested heavily on the appellant, but it failed to discharge the same. There is, thus, no infirmity in the finding of the Tribunal on this issue as well.
In so far as the amount of compensation is concerned, the Tribunal assessed the income of Balwinder Singh as that of a labourer at Rs.2400/- per month and deducted 1/3rd
on account of personal expenses.
On the dependency so assessed, i.e., Rs.1600/- per month, a multiplier of `16' was applied keeping in view the age of the deceased which was 30 years. Balwinder Singh was survived by his widow, three children and mother. A total amount of Rs.3,10,000/- which included Rs.3000/- for F.A.O.No.5237 of 2006
transportation and funeral expenses, was awarded.
Similarly, the Tribunal, in the case of death of Ajaib Singh, who was also between the age group of 28 to 30 years, applied the aforementioned criteria to arrive at the same figure. Both the deceased persons were brothers. The compensation so awarded to the claimants in both the cases cannot be termed to be excessive in the given circumstances of the case.
For the reasons stated above, both the appeals, being devoid of any merit, are dismissed.
(Uma Nath Singh) (Mahesh Grover )
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