BOMBAY HIGH COURT HOLDS THE INSURER AND NOT THE APPELLANT-DRIVER LIABLE TO PAY COMPENSATION TO THE DECEASED’ FAMILY
In a recent case of Vijay Arvind Pore v. Rupali Ramdas Deshmukh & Anr., First Appeal No. 1175 of 2010, Justice Shivkumar Dige of the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay passed a Judgement dated 04-05-2023 and held that mere mention of the name of Bharat Gas on the body of the vehicle does not imply that the said truck was carrying any gas cylinders and hence, the Appellant-Driver cannot be held liable for not carrying permit to carry hazardous goods.
1) In the present case, one, Mrs. Rupali Ramdas Deshmukh, the Claimant-Respondent, filed a Compensation Claim before the Ld. Motor Accident Claim Tribunal, Satara Maharashtra (Tribunal), against one, Vijay Arvind Pore, the Appellant herein, who caused an accident while driving a truck on 09-03-2004 at 6:45 p.m. on the Pune-Bangalore Highway, as a result of which one, Ramdas Deshmukh (Deceased), the Claimant’s husband, who was travelling from Satara to Pune, died on the spot. As per the Claimant, the Appellant-Driver was trying to overtake the Deceased’s motorcycle, when the Deceased turned his motorcycle to the right, however, a collision occurred and the Deceased died.
2) The Appellant-Driver’s vehicle was insured with the Respondent No. 5, New India Insurance Company Ltd (Insurer).
3) The Ld. Tribunal while deciding the Claim, held that at the time of the accident, the truck being driven by the Appellant, which was used for transporting Gas Cylinders for Bharat Gas Company, did not hold an effective and valid driving licence for carrying hazardous goods.
4) Further, the Ld. Tribunal, while dealing with the issue of fixing liability for compensation upon the Insurer, observed that at the time of the accident, as the offending truck did not have a permit to carry hazardous goods, and there was no endorsement on the Appellant-Driver’s driving licence to carry hazardous goods in the vehicle, a breach is said to have been committed by the owner of the truck, and a breach of the terms and conditions of the insurance policy. Therefore, the Insurer is not liable to pay the compensation to the Claimant. Rather, the Appellant-Driver is responsible for paying compensation to the Claimant.
Analysis and Findings of the High Court
Aggrieved by the Order of the Ld. Tribunal, the Appellant-Driver filed First Appeal No. 1175 of 2010 before the High Court Judicature at Bombay. The High Court, vide Order dated 04-05-2023, made the following observations:
(i) That the Claimant examined two eyewitnesses to the said incident, who stated that at the time of the accident, the offending truck gave a dash to the motorcycle of the Deceased. Also, in the spot panchnamma, it was mentioned that the name, Bharat Gas was written on the offending truck and that said truck was used in general for carrying gas cylinders. Based on the said evidences, the Ld. Tribunal came to the conclusion that on the day of the accident, the Appellant’s truck was carrying gas cylinders.
(ii) However, the spot panchanamma, was prepared three to four months after the accident and the same merely mentions that the name, Bharat Gas was mentioned on the body of the vehicle, but does not mention that the offending truck was carrying gas cylinders at the time of the accident.
(iii) Further, the Insurer, in its defense, examined DW-1 Sambhaji Redkar, and an officer from the Road Transport Office (RTO) Office who stated that the Appellant-Driver was in possession of a heavy goods vehicle licence. But there was no endorsement on the said licence in respect of carrying hazardous goods.
(iv) Further, the Insurer failed to produce on record any other evidence or depositions of eyewitnesses, to establish the fact that at the time of the accident, the offending truck was carrying gas cylinders.
(v) Thus, at the time of the accident, although the offending truck had the name of Bharat Gas mentioned on it, but the same did not carry any gas cylinders, hence, the liability cannot be affixed on the Appellant-Driver to pay compensation to the Claimant for alleged failure to carry requisite permits to carry hazardous goods in the truck.
Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, the High Court held that mere mention of the name of Bharat Gas on the body of the vehicle does not imply that the said truck was carrying any gas cylinders and hence, the Appellant cannot be held liable for not carrying permit to carry hazardous goods and further, cannot be held liable to compensate the Claimant. Hence, the High Court held that the Appellant has not breached any terms of the insurance policy and therefore, the Insurer would be liable to pay the Claimant the compensation fixed by the Ld. Tribunal.
The Indian Lawyer