IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 9100 OF 2018
(Arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 20085 of 2017)
NATIONAL INSURANCE CO. LTD. ….. APPELLANT
ASHALATA BHOWMIK AND ORS. ….. RESPONDENTS
J U D G M E N T
S.ABDUL NAZEER, J.
1. Leave granted.
2. National Insurance Co. Ltd. has filed this appeal challenging the
judgment and order in MACAP No.25/2015 dated 15th March, 2017 whereby
the High Court of Tripura at Agartala has directed the appellant-insurer to pay
the compensation to the respondents awarded by the Motor Accidents Claims
Tribunal, West Tripura, Agartala (for short ‘the Tribunal’) in a sum of
Rs.10,57,800/- with interest at the rate of 8% per annum from the date of filing
of the claim petition till the date of payment.
3. The first respondent is the mother of deceased Dilip Bhowmik. The
second respondent is his wife and respondent Nos. 3 and 4 are his children. On
20.5.2012 at about 7.00 p.m. Dilip Bhowmik was returning from Kathaltali to
his house by driving his vehicle bearing No. TR-01-U-0530. When he reached
near the bridge of Agartala Railway Station situated on the bye-pass under
Amtali police station, he met with an accident and sustained grievous injuries
on his person. He was initially rushed to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Memorial
Teaching Hospital, Hapania. Thereafter, he was referred to AGMC and GBP
hospital, Agartala, where he was declared dead. At the time of the accident he
was aged 43 years. The respondents alleged that the deceased was a
businessman and his monthly income was Rs.15,000/-. They filed a claim
petition seeking compensation amounting to Rs.68,15,000/-. The claim
petition was opposed by the appellant-insurer. The Tribunal passed an award
granting total compensation in a sum of Rs. 10,57,800/-.
4. The appellant challenged the said award of the Tribunal before the
High Court mainly contending that the deceased himself was the owner-cumdriver
of the offending vehicle. He was not a third party within the meaning
of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (for short ‘the Act’). The accident had
occurred due to the negligence of the deceased. Therefore, the appellant, being
insurer of the vehicle, was not liable to pay the compensation.
5. The High Court accepted the contention of the appellant that the
deceased was not a third party and that the accident had occurred due to the
rash and negligent driving of the offending vehicle. However, the High Court
directed the appellant to pay the compensation with a rider that the said order
shall not be treated as a precedent. On perusal of the policy of the insurance,
the High Court in the course of the order observed that indemnification
extended to personal accident of the owner-cum-driver was limited to the
extent of Rs.2,00,000/-. The finding of the High Court on this question is as
“As it has been established by the claimantrespondents
that the premium was paid for the
personal accident the insurance company is liable
to pay the said compensation, even though it is
limited to Rs.2,00,000/- to the claimantrespondents.
There is no challenge, however,
against the determination of the compensation.”
6. Learned counsel for the appellant has contended that the deceased
himself was driving the offending vehicle and has caused the accident. No
other vehicle was involved in the accident. He cannot be treated as a third
party. Therefore, the High Court has rightly held that the claim petition filed
by the respondents was not maintainable. In view of this finding, the High
Court was not justified in directing the appellant to pay the compensation.
Learned counsel appearing for the respondents, on the other hand, has sought
to justify the impugned order.
7. We have carefully considered the submissions of the learned counsel
made at the Bar and perused the materials placed on record. It is an admitted
position that the deceased was the owner-cum-driver of the vehicle in question.
The accident had occurred due to the rash and negligent driving of the vehicle
by the deceased. No other vehicle was involved in the accident. The deceased
himself was responsible for the accident. The deceased being the owner of the
offending vehicle was not a third party within the meaning of the Act. The
deceased was the victim of his own action of rash and negligent driving. A
Claimant, in our view, cannot maintain a claim on the basis of his own fault or
negligence and argue that even when he himself may have caused the accident
on account of his own rash and negligent driving, he can nevertheless make the
insurance company to pay for the same. Therefore, the respondents being the
LRs of the deceased could not have maintained the claim petition filed under
Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act.
8. This Court in Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Jhuma Saha (Smt)
and Ors. (2007) 9 SCC 263, was considering a similar case where the owner
himself was driving the vehicle which due to his negligence dashed with a tree
on the roadside as a result of which he died. The Court held that the claim
petition filed by his LRs was not maintainable. It was held thus:-
“10. The deceased was the owner of the vehicle.
For the reasons stated in the claim petition or
otherwise, he himself was to be blamed for the
accident. The accident did not involve motor
vehicle other than the one which he was driving.
The question which arises for consideration is that
the deceased himself being negligent, the claim
petition under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles
Act, 1988 would be maintainable.
11. Liability of the insurer Company is to the
extent of indemnification of the insured against the
respondent or an injured person, a third person or
in respect of damages of property. Thus, if the
insured cannot be fastened with any liability under
the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, the
question of the insurer being liable to indemnify
the insured, therefore, does not arise”.
9. Therefore, the High Court was not justified in directing the
appellant/insurer to pay the compensation determined by the Tribunal. Since
the indemnification extended to personal accident of the deceased is limited to
Rs. 2,00,000/- under the contract of insurance, the respondents are entitled for
the said amount towards compensation. Hence, the appellant is directed to
deposit the said sum of Rs. 2,00,000/- with interest @ 9 per cent per annum
from the date of the Claim Petition till the date of deposit with the Tribunal
within a period of four weeks from today.
10. The appeal is allowed in the aforesaid terms without any order as to
(S. ABDUL NAZEER)
August 31, 2018.