Insurance Co. Ltd. Vs. Ajit Kumar & Ors  Insc 426 (2 September 2003)
Raju & Arijit Pasayat.
out of SLP(C) Nos. 18242-18243/2002) ARIJIT PASAYAT, J
only question raised in these appeals is whether the insurer is liable to pay
the compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (in short the 'Act') for
the death or bodily injury to a person traveling in goods vehicle as passenger.
Liability of the insurer was fixed by relying on this Court's decision in New
India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Satpal Singh (2000 (1) SCC 237).
aspects need not be gone into in detail, as there is practically no dispute on
the factual aspects.
counsel for the insurer-appellant submitted that Section 149 (2) of the Act is
etymologically different from proviso (ii) to Section 96 (2)(b) of the Motor
Vehicles Act 1939 (hereinafter referred to as the 'old Act') and, therefore,
the ratio in Satpal Singh's case (supra) has no application. In response,
learned counsel appearing for the claimants submitted that in the said case
such a stand has been negatived and it has been held that insurer is liable to
pay compensation to gratuitous passengers.
Court had occasion to deal with cases of passengers traveling in goods vehicles
which met with accident resulting in death of such person or bodily injury.
Such cases belong to three categories i.e.
covered by the old Act;
covered by the Act; and
covered by amendment of the Act in 1994 by the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act,
1994 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Amendment Act').
present appeals belong to the second category.
Singh's case (supra) this Court proceeded on the footing that provision of
Section 95(1) of the old Act is in pari materia with Section 147(1) of the Act,
as it stood prior to the amendment in 1994.
closer reading of the expressions "goods vehicle", "public
service vehicle", "stage carrier" and "transport
vehicle" occurring in Sections 2(8), 2(25), 2(29) and 2(33) of the old Act
with the corresponding provisions i.e. Section 2(14), 2(35), 2(40) and 2(47) of
the Act, it is clear that there are conceptual differences. The provisions read
"goods vehicle" means any motor vehicle constructed or adapted for
use for the carriage of goods, or any motor vehicle not so constructed or
adapted when used for the carriage of goods solely or in addition to
"public service vehicle" means any motor vehicle used or adapted to be
used for the carriage of passengers for hire or reward, and includes a motorcab,
contract carriage, and stage carriage;"
"stage carriage" means a motor vehicle carrying or adapted to carry
more than six persons excluding the driver which carries passengers for hire or
reward at separate fares paid by or for individual passengers, either for the
whole journey or for stages of the journey;"
"transport vehicle" means a public service vehicle or a goods
vehicle;" New Act:
"goods carriage" any motor vehicle constructed or adapted for use
solely for the carriage of goods, or any motor vehicle not so constructed or
adapted when used for the carriage of goods;"
"public service vehicle" means any motor vehicle used or adapted to
be used for the carriage of passengers for hire or reward, and includes a maxicab,
a motorcab, contract, and stage carriage;"
"stage carriage" means a motor vehicle constructed or adapted to
carry more than six passengers excluding the driver for hire or reward at
separate fares paid by or for individual passengers, either for the whole
journey or for stages of the journey;"
"transport vehicle" means a public service vehicle, a goods carriage,
an educational institution bus or a private service vehicle;"
for emphasis) "Liability" as defined in Section 145(c) of the Act
reads as follows:
wherever used in relation to the death of or bodily injury to any person,
includes liability in respect thereof under Section 140;" Third party
risks in the background of vehicles which are subject-matter of insurance are
dealt with in Chapter VIII of the old Act and Chapter XI of the Act. Proviso to
Section 147 needs to be juxtaposed with Section 95 of the old Act. Proviso to
Section 147 of the Act reads as follows:
that a policy shall not be required-
cover liability in respect of the death, arising out of and in the course of
his employment, of the employee of a person insured by the policy or in respect
of bodily injury sustained by such an employee arising out of and in the course
of his employment other than a liability arising under the Workmen's
Compensation Act, 1923 (8 of 1923) in respect of the death of, or bodily injury
to, any such employee –
in driving the vehicle, or
it is a public service vehicle engaged as conductor of the vehicle or in
examining tickets on the vehicles, or
it is a goods carriage, being carried in the vehicle, or
cover any contractual liability."
of significance that proviso appended to Section 95 of the old Act contained
clause (ii) which does not find place in the new Act.
same reads as follows:- "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." The difference in the language of "goods vehicle"
as appearing in the old Act and "goods carriage" in the Act is of
significance. A bare reading of the provisions makes it clear that the
legislative intent was to prohibit goods vehicle from carrying any passenger.
This is clear from the expression "in addition to passengers" as
contained in definition of "goods vehicle" in the old Act. The
position becomes further clear because the expression used is "goods
carriage" is solely for the carriage of goods". Carrying of
passengers in a goods carriage is not contemplated in the Act. There is no
provision similar to clause (ii) of the proviso appended to Section 95 of the
old Act prescribing requirement of insurance policy. Even Section 147 of the
Act mandates compulsory coverage against death of or bodily injury to any
passenger of "public service vehicle". The proviso makes it further
clear that compulsory coverage in respect of drivers and conductors of public
service vehicle and employees carried in goods vehicle would be limited to
liability under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923 (in short 'WC Act'). There
is no reference to any passenger in "goods carriage'.
inevitable conclusion, therefore, is that provisions of the Act do not enjoin
any statutory liability on the owner of a vehicle to get his vehicle insured
for any passenger traveling in a goods carriage and the insurer would have no
view gets support from a decision of a three-Judge Bench in New India Assurance
Co. Ltd. v. Asha Rani and Ors. (2003 (2) SCC 223) and Oriental Insurance Co.
Ltd. v. Devireddy Konda Reddy and Ors. (2003 (2) SCC 339) Learned counsel for
the respondents submitted that respondent No.1 should be permitted to avail
such remedies as are available in law for recovering any amount to be paid as
compensation from a person liable to pay compensation at the first instance. No
permission is necessary for such purpose. If respondent No.1 has any remedy in
law it is open to pursue it in accordance with law. The appeals are allowed by
setting aside the judgment of the Tribunal and the High Court. There shall be
no order as to costs.