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Dobella Laxmi Narayana vs S. Ravi Kumar And Anr. on 6 October, 1994

Andhra High Court
Dobella Laxmi Narayana vs S. Ravi Kumar And Anr. on 6 October, 1994
Equivalent citations: 1995 ACJ 1201
Author: M B Naik
Bench: M B Naik


JUDGMENT

Motilal B. Naik, J.

1. This civil miscellaneous appeal is directed against the order passed by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Khammam, in O.P. No. 303 of 1989 dated 21.6.1991. The appellant herein is the owner of the vehicle in question involved in the accident.

2. The claimant in O.P. No. 303 of 1989, first respondent herein, was proceeding on 9.1.1989 around 10 a.m. on his motor cycle on Wyra-Madhira Road. When he covered a distance of 9 km. from Wyra and reached Rebbavaram bus stand, the first respondent-appellant herein came driving the tractor at high speed in the opposite direction and dashed against him, due to which the claimant sustained injuries. He was immediately taken to a private nursing home and was later shifted to Government Headquarters Hospital, Khammam, as it was a medico-legal case. The claimant was treated for a period of one month as an in-patient in the Government Headquarters Hospital, Khammam. He sustained fractures to the left thigh and pelvic bone, besides several other injuries.

3. The claimant claimed a compensation of Rs. 90,000/- from the appellant and second respondent herein, under various heads.

4. The claim of the first respondent herein who was the petitioner in O.P. No. 303 of 1989 was resisted by the appellant and the second respondent herein contending, inter alia, that the claimant was not entitled to claim compensation.

5. On the basis of the oral and documentary evidence, the Tribunal awarded to the claimant a compensation of Rs. 33,480 under various heads. However, the Tribunal fixed the liability only against the owner of the vehicle, i.e., the appellant herein who was driving the vehicle at the time of accident on the ground that the owner of the vehicle had no valid driving licence to drive heavy vehicle and, therefore, excluded the insurance company, second respondent herein, from paying compensation.

6. Aggrieved by the said finding of the Tribunal fixing the liability only on him, the first respondent in O.P. No. 303 of 1989, who is the owner of the vehicle in question, has preferred this civil miscellaneous appeal.

7. Mr. Raja M. Reddy, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant, contended that the Tribunal has erred in fixing the liability only on the appellant herein who was the first respondent in the O.P., inasmuch as the Tribunal was carried away with Exh. A-3 which is said to be the report of the Motor Vehicle Inspector filed for the purpose of indicating the nature of accident that occurred on 9.1.1989. He further contended that the owner of the vehicle, i.e., the appellant herein had, admittedly, licence to drive light vehicles. The Tribunal holding that the tractor is not a light vehicle held that the appellant herein who was driving the tractor at the time of accident was not possessing a valid driving licence to drive heavy vehicle like tractor and, therefore, fixed the liability to pay compensation to the claimant on the appellant herein. The Tribunal has also felt that the insurance company would be held liable only if the vehicle involved in the accident is covered by a subsisting insurance policy and the person driving the said vehicle has got a valid driving licence. In support of his contention, Mr. Raja M. Reddy, counsel for the appellant, placed before me a decision of the Division Bench of Madras High Court in New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Subbu 1987 ACJ 108 (Madras) and contended that the present case is squarely covered by the above decision and, therefore, the order of the Tribunal has to be set aside.

8. On the contrary, Mr. Venkata Ratnam, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., second respondent herein, contends that Exh. A-3 categorically shows that the appellant herein had only licence to drive light motor vehicles and as the Tribunal has held that the tractor was not a light motor vehicle, as such he has no valid driving licence to drive the heavy motor vehicle. Therefore, he contended that the Tribunal, in the circumstances, has rightly held that the appellant herein is only liable to pay the compensation despite the vehicle in question being covered by a valid insurance policy.

9. In order to resolve the controversy, it is necessary to extract the relevant provisions. Section 2, Clause (13) of the Motor Vehicles Act (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’) defines light motor vehicle as under:

‘light motor vehicle’ means a transport vehicle or omnibus the registered laden weight of which, or a motor car or tractor the unladen weight of which, does not exceed 4,000 kilograms.

Clause (9) of Section 2 of the Act defines ‘heavy goods vehicle’ as under:

‘heavy goods vehicle’ means any goods vehicle the registered laden weight of which, or a tractor the unladen weight of which, exceeds 11,000 kilograms.

Sub-section (30) of Section 2 of the Act defines a ‘tractor’ as under:

‘tractor’ means a motor vehicle which is not itself constructed to carry any load (other than equipment used for the purpose of propulsion); but excludes a roadroller.

Sub-section (32) of Section 2 of the Act defines a ‘trailer’ as under:

‘trailer’ means any vehicle other than a side-car drawn or intended to be drawn by a motor vehicle.

10. Therefore, there is a clear distinction between light motor vehicle and heavy goods vehicle. Admittedly, in the instant case, nothing has been brought out before the Tribunal or before this court to indicate that the unladen weight of the tractor in question was more than 4,000 kilograms so as to attract the provisions of Clause (13) of Section 2 of the Act. Even if the tractor is drawn along with the trailer, as held by the Division Bench of the Madras High Court in the case cited supra, it cannot be construed as a heavy vehicle. Therefore, the tractor drawn with a trailer which has unladen weight up to 4,000 kilograms is construed to be a light vehicle.

11. Admittedly, the appellant herein had licence to drive light motor vehicle, and as such, it cannot be said that he was not having a valid driving licence to drive a light vehicle. In fact, when there is nothing on record to show that the vehicle in question is a heavy vehicle, I am not persuaded to accept the submissions made by Mr. Venkata Ratnam, counsel appearing on behalf of the Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., in this behalf.

12. In the facts and circumstances of the case, I hold that the appellant herein had a valid driving licence to drive the vehicle in question as on the date of the accident and, therefore, the finding of the Tribunal in this regard that the appellant had no valid licence to drive the vehicle is set aside.

13. Once the finding of the Tribunal on this aspect is set aside, the only question that remains is as to what is the relief the appellant is entitled to ?

14. Admittedly, the vehicle in question is insured with the second respondent herein as on the date of the accident. The liability of the insurance company arises as and when the vehicle in question meets with an accident provided such accident has occurred during the subsistence of the insurance policy and also if the vehicle is driven by a person having a valid driving licence. Admittedly, the appellant herein who is the owner of the vehicle in question was driving the vehicle as on the date of accident. It is also admitted that the insurance policy was also in force. As I said earlier, the appellant had valid driving licence to drive the vehicle in question, therefore, the second respondent, insurance company, cannot escape from the liability of paying compensation awarded to the claimant by the Tribunal. Accordingly, I hold that the second respondent herein is liable to pay the compensation amount to the claimant as awarded by the Tribunal.

15. Consequently, this civil miscellaneous appeal is allowed. The order of the Tribunal in O.P. No. 303 of 1989 is modified by holding that the Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., second respondent herein, is liable to pay the compensation of Rs. 33.480/- to the claimant as awarded by the Tribunal. It is needless to mention that the claimant is entitled to interest at the rate of 12 per cent per annum on the said compensation amount as awarded by the Tribunal.

16. The accident took place on 9.1.1989. I am informed in the court that the claimant has not received even a single paisa towards compensation. Under these circumstances, Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., second respondent herein, shall deposit the compensation amount of Rs. 33,480/- along with interest at 12 per cent per annum from the date of filing of the O.P., i.e., 19.6.1989 within a period of six weeks from today. In the circumstances of the case, no order as to costs.

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