High Court of Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh
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Darshan Singh v. National Insurance Company & Ors - FAO-3083-2003  RD-P&H 1307 (1 March 2006)
Case No. : F.A.O.No.3083 of 2003
Date of Decision : February 22, 2006.
Darshan Singh .... Appellant
National Insurance Company & others .... Respondents Coram : Hon'ble Mr.Justice Viney Mittal.
* * *
Present : Mr.G.S.Punia, Advocate
for the appellant.
Mr.Paul S.Saini, Advocate
for the respondents.
JUDGMENT (Oral) :
This judgment shall dispose of two appeals bearing FAO No.3082 of 2003 and FAO No.3083 of 2003, as both these appeals have arisen out of a common accident. The appeals have been filed by the owner of the vehicle, which was involved in the accident. The limited challenge in the present appeals is with regard to the award of the learned Tribunal, wherein the National Insurance Company, with whom the vehicle in question was insured, was absolved of its liablitity.
An accident had taken place on April 29, 1999. In the aforesaid accident, one Kanta died and Ankush Ingola was injured. Two claim petitions were filed before the Tribunal. It was claimed that Jasbir Singh, who was driving the truck bearing registration No.PBJ 9885, was rash and negligent in his driving, thereby causing death of Kanta and injuries to Ankush Ingola.
Learned Tribunal, on the basis of evidence on record, found that F.A.O.No.3083 of 2003 : 2 :
Jasbir Singh was driving the truck in question rashly and negligently.
Consequently, the claimants were held entitled to compensation. However, the plea raised by the Insurance Company was accepted to the effect that the original driving licence possessed by Jasbir Singh was not valid although the same had been subsequently renewed. Consequently, the National Insurance Company was absolved of its liability.
It was directed by the Tribunal that the Insurance Company shall make the payment of compensation to the claimants and recover the same from the driver and owner of the truck.
A compensation of Rs.96,000/- was assessed for the death of Kanta, whereas in the case of Ankush Ingola, an amount of Rs.30,000/- was assessed. The claimants had not challenged the aforesaid award. In these circumstances, the award has attained finality as far as the claimants are concerned.
The present appeal, as noticed above, has been filed by Darshan Singh, who is the owner of the truck in question.
I have heard learned counsel for the parties and have also gone through the record of the case. Hon'ble the Supreme Court of India, in case of National Insurance Company v. Swaran Singh and others, 2004(3) SCC 297 has held as follows :
"(iii) The breach of policy condition e.g. disqualification of the driver or invalid driving licence of the driver, as contained in sub-section (2) (a) (ii) of Section 149, has to be proved to have been committed by the insured for avoiding liability by the insurer. Mere absence, fake or invalid driving licence or disqualification of the driver for driviing at the relevant tim, are not in themselves defences available to the insurer against either the insured or the third parties. To avoid its liability towards the insured, the insurer has to prove that the insured was guilty of negligence and failed to exercise reasonable care in the matter of fulfilling the condition of the policy regarding use of vehicles by a duly licenced driver or one who was not disqualified to drive F.A.O.No.3083 of 2003 : 3 :
at the relevant time."
In these circumstances, it is apparent that mere absence, fake or invalid driving licence, would not be in themselves, sufficient defence against the insured or the claimant. As a matter of fact, to avoid its liability towards insured, the insurer has to prove that the insured was guilty of negligence and failed to exercise reasonable care in the matter of fulfilling the conditions of the policy regarding use of the vehicle by a duly licenced driver or one who was not disqualified to drive at the relevant time.
No evidence, in this regard, has been led to show that the appellant-owner of the truck was, in any manner, negligent for employing Jasbir Singh, who was in possession of invalid driving licence.
In view of the aforesaid fact and keeping in view the law laid down by the Apex Court in Swaran Singh and others' case (supra), the present appeal is allowed and it is held that the amount of payment as awarded by the Tribunal shall be jointly and severally payable by all the persons namely driver, owner and Insurance Company.
The present appeals are, consequently, allowed in the aforesaid terms.
Before parting with this judgment, it is made clear that the Insurance Company shall be at liberty to seek the recovery of the aforesaid amount from the owner/driver of the truck in question, before a regular court, in accordance with law.
February 22, 2006 ( VINEY MITTAL )
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