Motor Accident Claims Tribunal required to deliberate upon effective driving licence of driver of offending vehicle, which, however, is missing in the case: The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh

The Tribunal, required to deliberate upon, discuss and decide the validity and effective driving licence of the driver of the offending vehicle, in detail, which, however, is missing in the present case. The Tribunal required to come up with a lucid finding thereabout. In the Hon’ble High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh through the single-bench led by Justice VINOD CHATTERJI KOUL  in the matters of National Insurance Company Limited. v. Shameema  Begum& Ors [CM/76/2017].

The facts of the case are respondent no.8 (driver) was rashly and negligently plying offending vehicle, bearing Registration no.JK01E-2018, and on reaching Mirgund on Srinagar-Baramulla NHW, he lost control over the offending vehicle and struck against a pedestrian, namely, Ghulam Rasool Antoo, who was standing on the correct side of the road with due care and caution, with the result deceased sustained multiple fatal injuries on various parts of his body, and ultimately succumbed to injuries in hospital. The offending vehicle was insured with the appellant Insurance Company. Claimants/respondents 1 to 4 sought a grant of compensation of Rs.25.00 Lakhs along with interest. Appellant Insurance Company resisted the claim petition before the Tribunal on the ground that the driver of the offending vehicle was not having a valid and effective driving licence at the time of the alleged accident. It was also stated that the offending vehicle at the time of the alleged accident was being driven in violation of terms and conditions of insurance policy, permit and provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act. It was admitted that the offending vehicle was insured with the appellant-Insurance Company. The Tribunal framed three issues.

The Tribunal directed “The Tribunal found claimants/respondents entitled to receive compensation of Rs.10,10,000/- along with 6% interest per annum by saddling appellant Insurance Company to pay it.”

The counsel for the applicants submitted that the Tribunal has not dealt with Issue no.2 in proper perspective. Respondent no.8, driver of the offending vehicle, was not having a valid and effective driving licence at the time of the accident. However, the Tribunal did not properly appreciate this facet of the matter while deciding the aforesaid Issue. According to him, finding returned by the Tribunal on Issue no.2 is bad in law as there was a breach on the part of the owner of the offending vehicle and, therefore, the insurance company is not bound to prove the terms and conditions of the insurance policy. It is contended that the driving licence of respondent no.8 could not be verified as the records pertaining to the period from 05.02.2002 to 29.01.2006 and the record pertaining to HGV endorsement w.e.f. 05.07.2002 to 07.05.2007 was missing from the office of ARTO Doda. It is also contended that driving licence was renewed from ARTO Udhampur w.e.f. 27.03.2008 to 26.03.2011 and thereafter the said licence was renewed from 08.07.2011 to 07.07.2014 and, therefore, the licence was not renewed after 03 months of the date of the accident.

The court concluded “the Appeal on hand is partly allowed and the Award dated 13th May 2017, passed by Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Srinagar, on a Claim Petition, bearing File no.254/2021, titled Shameema Begum and others v. National Insurance Company Limited and others, is set-aside to the extent of Issue No.2 (viz. Whether the owner of the offending vehicle has permitted the driver (respondent no.5) to ply the said vehicle without valid, effective DL and has committed the breach of the insurance contract?). The matter is remanded back to the Tribunal to decide afresh the claim petition with reference to the validity of driving licence of the driver of offending vehicle (i.e., Issue no.2) after considering all aspects of the matter and after taking all steps that may be warranted therefor, including the summoning of witnesses and recording their statements. Obviously, outcome thereof shall also decide payment of compensation either to be made by Insurance Company or owner of offending vehicle and to this extent, the Issue, framed by Tribunal, is also to be decided by the Tribunal.

The court disposed of the petition.

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