The substantial question of law arises in is whether a road inside a tea garden area is a ‘Public place’ as defined by Section 2(34) of the Motor Vehicle Act. The Tribunal start to interpret the said provision in a Strict manner like a court of law, the legislation behind that provision would be frustrated was held by the Gauhati High Court before the HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE PARTHIVJYOTI SAIKIA in the matters of Smti Kripa Barla and Ors v. United Indian Insurance Company Limited and Ors.[MACApp./43/2019]
The background of the case arises from causing the death to the Deceased. The accident took place on a road inside a Tea Garden. The Tribunal held that the accident took place inside the Tea Garden, the place of accident doesn’t fall within the definition of ‘Public Place’ as defined in Section 2(34) of the Motor Vehicle Act. The tribunal relieved the insurance company from its liability to pay compensation, instead, the Tribunal directed the Respondent tea company to pay the compensation.
Section 2(34) of the Motor Vehicle Act read as “Public Place means a road, street, way or other places, whether a thoroughfare or not, to which the public has a right to access and includes any place at which passengers are picked up or set down by the stage carriage.
Tea estates cover a large swathe of land. There are many roads inside the tea garden. Many people normally travel through those roads. In fact, any place which is accessible by the public is a public place. If the paddy field is accessible to the public then it is also a Public place within Section 2(34) of the Motor Vehicle Act. The provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act pertaining to the payment of compensation to the victims of motor accidents are Beneficial legislation.
The Hon’ble Court while interpreting the definition of the Motor Vehicle Act, is related to payment of compensation to Motor accident victims. Tribunals are required to take a liberal approach while interpreting the connected provisions of law. ‘The Respondent Insurance company is directed to pay the compensation as directed and other terms like making fix deposit remain as it is. The insurance company shall be at liberty to recover the compensation from the Respondent Tea company’.
Judgement reviewed by – Kaviya S.