Vs. TMT. Sultan Rajia Alias Thaju & Ors  INSC 1393 (5 November 1996)
Sen Ahmadi, Cji
Abu Thakir on 3.8.1982 suffered injuries while alighting from the bus belonging
to the appellant and died on the way to the hospital. The respondent No.1 is
the widow and the respondent No.2, the minor son of the deceased while the
respondents 3 & 4 are his father & mother respectively.
respondent No.5 was the insurer of the vehicle while the respondent No.6 was
the driver of the bus at the relevant time. The respondents 1 to 4 filed a
claim for compensation against the appellant and the respondents 5 and 6. The
District Judge, Madurai, acting as a Tribunal under the Motor Vehicles Act,
1939, hereinafter called 'the Act', awarded compensation of Rs.92,000/- and
held that since the deceased was a "passenger" at the time of the
accident the liability of the Insurance Company was limited to Rs.10,000/-
only. The appellant filed an appeal contending that the Insurance Company was
liable to pay the entire compensation. The respondents 1 to 4 also filed an
High Court dismissed both the a also Hence this appeal by special leave.
sole question that arises for consideration is whether the victim was a
"passenger" within the meaning of Section 95(2)(b)(ii) of the Act.
The findings of the District Judge, Madurai and that of the High Court are that the victim fell down from the bus
while alighting therefrom due to the rash and negligent act of the driver in
starting the bus before he had got down. Both the Courts rejected the plea of
contributory negligence on the part of the deceased.
quantum of compensation, i.e., Rs.92,000/-, is not chalIenged before us.
plea of the Insurance Company is that the deceased was a passenger in the bus
and therefore its liability was limited to Rs.10,000/- as per the provisions of
Section 95 of the Act. The plea of the appellant on the other hand is that the
victim/deceased was a 'third party' and hence the Insurance Company was liable
to meet the entire claim.
High Court, after examining the provisions and case law on the subject,
observed that there was a divergence of opinion on the question whether in a
situation as the present one, the deceased could be said to be a 'passenger' in
the bus. Examining the provisions of Section 95(1) of the Act, the High Court
observed that the liability arising out of an event leading to injury or death
of a person alighting from a bus, as in the present case, was necessarily to be
covered by the insurance policy, the victims of such accidents were passengers
for whom the liability of the Insurance Company at the relevant time was
limited to only Rs.10,000/-.
will be proper here to extract the relevant part of Section 95(1) of the Act :
Requirements of policies and limits of liability. -- (1) In order to comply
with the requirements of this Chapter, a policy of insurance must he a policy
which - (a) ... ... ...
insures the person or classes of persons specified in the policy to the extent
specified in sub-section (2) - (i) against any liability which may be incurred
by him in respect of the death of or bodily injury to any person or damage to
any property of a third party caused by or arising out of the use of the
vehicle in a public place;
against the death of or bodily injury toany passenger of a public service
vehicle caused by or arising out of the use of the vehicle in a public place,
Provided that a policy shall not be required (i) ... ... ...
except where the vehicle is a vehicle in which passengers are carried for hire
or reward or by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment, to cover
liability in respect of the death of or bodily injury to persons being carried
in or upon or entering or mounting or alighting from the vehicle at the time of
the occurrence of the event out of which a claim arises, or (iii) ... ...
High Court rightly interpreted the proviso (ii) extracted above to mean that
the liability in respect of death or injury to persons alighting from the
vehicle at the time of the accident need not be covered except where the
vehicle is a vehicle in which the passengers are carried for hire or reward or
by reason of or in pursuance of a contract of employment. In other words, where
the vehicle is a vehicle in which the passengers are carried for hire or reward
or by reason of or pursuant to a contract of employment, giving rise to the
above liability arising out of an accident, the vehicle has necessarily to be
be seen that the proviso is an exception to Section 95(1). As per sub-section
(b) the insurance policy must insure the persons specified in the policy
against (i) any liability to person or property of a third party, and (ii)
against death or personal injury to any passenger of a public service vehicle.
The liability in respect of those suffering personal injury while getting into
or alighting from the vehicle need not be covered if the vehicle is not one in
which the passengers are carried for hire reward. But as in the present case,
the vehicle is one that carries passengers for hire or reward, the liability
for personal injury or death caused while getting into or alighting from the
vehicle would be required to be covered by the policy.
other words, such people who suffer injury or die while alighting from the
vehicle are to be covered by the general rule that the insurance policy for a
public service vehicle should cover the liability against the death of or
bodily injury to any passenger of such a vehicle.
clear that the legislature intended that such persons, viz., passengers who are
in the process of alighting from a public service vehicle, should be covered by
the policy of insurance, which requirement is mandatory under Section 95(1)(b)(ii)
of the Act.
once such persons, viz., those who are entering or alighting from the vehicle
are treated as passengers, the limit of liability of the insurance company has
to be located in clause (ii) of Section 95(2)(b) of the Act. The limit at the
relevant time was Rs.1O,OOO/-.
High Court has referred to a few decisions of the very same court wherein
contradictory views have been expressed. We do not consider it necessary to
restate those cases because in our view the language of the statute is clear.
Section 95(1)(b) makes it clear that a policy of insurance shall not be
required to cover liability in respect of death or bodily injury to persons
boarding or alighting from a motor vehicle but clause (ii) of the proviso thereto
engrafts an exception and says that where the vehicle is one in which
passengers are carried for hire or reward or by reason of or in pursuance of a
contract of employment, it shall be necessary to cover liability in relation to
persons carried in or upon such vehicle which would include cases of death or
bodily injury caused while entering or mounting or alighting from such vehicle.
The words 'alighting from the vehicle' are plain and simple and clearly mean
'while getting down from the vehicle'.
if a person is still in the process of boarding or alighting from the vehicle,
such person would be entitled to the coverage, no doubt within the limit of
liability fixed under the statute at the relevant point of time. It must be
remembered that this was a beneficial provision engrafted by way of an
exception to provide an insurance cover to passengers.
interesting to observe that in the new Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, the proviso on
which our interpretation rests has been omitted. For our purpose, since the
accident took place in 1982, the old Act has to be applied. The appellant,
being the owner of the bus is vicariously liable for the acts of the driver,
the respondent No.6 and is liable for the compensation for the death of Syed
Abu Thakir. The insurer, the respondent No.5, is liable only to the extent of
Rs.10,000/-. The appeals are accordingly dismissed. No costs.