S.147 of the Motors Vehicles Act, 1988 covers death or bodily injury to even gratuitous passenger: Karnataka High Court

Section 147 of the MV Act, 1988 ensures that an Insurance Policy covering Third-party risk is not required to exclude gratuitous passengers in a vehicle irrespective of the vehicle’s type or class. This judgment was passed in the case of New India Assurance Co. Ltd. vs. Smt. Kamalamma [M.F.A.No.1139/2011] by a Single Bench consisting of Hon’ble Justice H.P. Sandesh.

The appeal in the present case was filed by the appellant insurance company challenging the judgment passed by the Additional Civil Judge and Additional motor Accident Claims Tribunal (the Tribunal). The respondent filed a claim petition challenging the death of her son who was traveling in a tractor-trailer (the Tractor) which dashed against the KEB pole and skidded to a paddy field when driven in a rash and negligent manner. As a result of the same, the deceased suffered injuries and died in the hospital. The deceased was doing supervisory work and earning Rs4000 per month and maintaining the claimant. The second respondent- The insurer of the tractor, opposed the claim petition contending that the deceased was traveling as a passenger contrary to the terms and conditions of policy and permit. Thus, the Insurance Company would not be liable to pay any compensation. The tribunal after considering oral and documentary evidence allowed the claim petition by granting Rs.3,39,000/- with 6% interest per annum from the date of petition till deposit and the first respondent alone would be liable. The tribunal changed its order and directed the Insurer to pay the compensation amount modifying the quantum of compensation awarded by the Tribunal.

The High Court of Karnataka considered that the crux of the issue at hand was whether the Tribunal had committed an error in fastening the liability of the Insurance company and whether the same required the interference of the Court. The High Court observed that the Insurance Company was proceeding as a gratuitous passenger. Further, the cross 0edxamination also did not reveal that he traveled as a passenger. The primary contention of the claimant was that the son was working as a supervisor. The high court observed that the appellant did not dispute the document which showed that the deceased was returning the tractor after unloading the bricks. Though during the cross-examination it was hinted that the deceased might not have been a supervisor, there was nothing to dispute the same. the court observed that the insurance company already collected the premium for 3td parties and the tribunal had rightly come to the conclusion that the policy is a comprehensive policy and not an act policy.

The next contention of the appellants was that as per section 147 of the Motor Vehicles Act Insurance company is not liable to pay any compensation to the Supervisor and cannot be termed as loader, workman, or coolie. The court held that a “comprehensive/package policy” would cover the liability of the insurer for payment of compensation for the occupant in a car. Further, if the contract of insurance is given its face value, it would cover the risk of not only the third party but also of persons traveling in the car including the owner. As far as if the present insurance is a comprehensive policy or act policy, it is a comprehensive policy.

The High Court held that section 147 of the Motors Vehicles Act, covers death or bodily injury to even gratuitous passengers. Thus the policy would cover injury to any person including the owner of goods or his authorized representative. In the present case, the deceased is the son of the owner and under the new Act, an Insurance Policy covering 3rd party risk is not required to exclude gratuitous passengers in a vehicle irrespective of the vehicle’s type or class.

The High Court of Karnataka concluded by holding, “In the absence of any appeal the findings of the Tribunal cannot be modified or interfered with even though lesser compensation was awarded while calculating the “loss of dependency” taking note of the age of the mother.”

Click here for the Judgment.

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