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Driving of the insured vehicle using invalid or fake driving license, constitutes a breach of policy conditions, entitling the insurance company to avoid its liability : Jammu and Kashmir High Court

The Court held that it has power to direct the insurance company to satisfy the award with a right to recover the awarded sum from the owner/insured even in cases, where breach of policy conditions has been proved by the insurance company. This was held in the judgment passed by a single judge bench comprising of HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE SANJAY DHAR,, in the matter United India Insurance Company Ltd V. Mohammad Subhan Bhat and others. [CMAM No. 34/2014], dealt with an issue where the petitioner filed a petition challenging the award dated 08.10.2013 passed by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Srinagar.

The deceased, namely, Mohd. Ayoub Bhat and Shakeel Ahmed Baba were travelling in a car, the vehicle in question was subjected to firing by unidentified gunmen, resulting in fatal injuries to both the deceased as well as the driver-cum-owner of the vehicle in question. The legal heirs/dependants of the aforesaid two deceased filed two separate claim petitions before the Tribunal, claiming compensation against the legal heirs of the owner-cum-driver and the appellant-insurance company. The legal heirs of the deceased owner-cum-driver did not contest the claim petitions, whereas the appellant-insurance company contested the claim petitions before the Tribunal by filing its objections.

While admitting the currency of policy of the insurance of the offending vehicle covering the period of the occurrence, the insurance company claimed that the accident was not caused due to negligence of the driver of the offending vehicle, inasmuch as the police has filed charge-sheet for offences under Sections 302, 307, 427, 120-B, 324 RPC and Section 7/27 of the Arms Act. On this ground it was urged that the claim petition is not maintainable. It was further contended that the driver of the vehicle in question was not holding a valid driving licence at the time of the accident and as such, the insurance company is not liable to pay any compensation to the claimants. The insurance company also contended that the deceased were travelling as gratuitous passengers in the offending car and that risk to their lives was not covered under the terms of the policy of insurance.

After hearing both sides, the Hon’ble High Court of Jammu and Kashmir allowed the petition and held that having regard to the circumstances of the present case, particularly the fact that the claimants in both the claim petitions may not find it easy to recover the amount of compensation from the legal heirs of the deceased driver, that too after a lapse of eighteen years of the accident, it is directed that the awarded sum in each of the claim petitions shall be paid by the insurance company to the claimants as per the quantum assessed by the Tribunal vide the impugned judgment, with a right to recover the same from the legal heirs of the deceased owner.

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Judgement reviewed by – Vaishnavi Raman

 

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