Insurance Co. Ltd. Vs. Om Prakash Jain  INSC 1578 (14 September 2009)
APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO.6248 OF 2009 (Arising out of S.L.P. (C)
No.680 of 2008) National Insurance Co. Ltd. ...Appellant(s) Versus Om Prakash
O R D E R
Om Prakash Jain filed a complaint before the District Consumer Disputes
Redressal Forum, Bundi, Rajasthan, [for short, "the District Forum"]
claiming compensation in lieu of the damage caused to the vehicle (truck
bearing registration No. RJ08/G-0023), which was purchased in the name of firm,
namely, M/s. Jain Oil Industries. According to him, the truck met with an
accident on 20th September, 1995 when he was going from Dei to Jaipur with
wheat loaded in the truck. The complainant pleaded that driver of the truck
Shri Taufiq Ahmad had valid driving licence. The appellant contested the
complaint by alleging that the wheat did not belong to the complainant; that
the truck was being used as public carrier for transporting the passengers and
that the driver did not have valid and effective driving licence.
issue of driving licence, the District Forum noted that the original licence of
Shri Taufiq Ahmad was issued in Assam on 22.1.1997 and was renewed by District
Transport Officer, Bundi for the period from 21.12.1992 to 19.1.1996. The
District Forum further noted that as per the report of District Transport
Officer, Guwahati, the driving licence possessed by Shri Taufiq Ahmad was not
issued by his office and held that the original licence of the driver was fake.
The District Forum then referred to the evidence produced by the parties and
concluded that the insured was guilty of violating the conditions of policy,
inasmuch as, it had transported goods belonging to others and allowed the use
of vehicle for transportation of passengers. On that premise, the District
Forum dismissed the complaint. The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
(for short, "the State Commission") before which the respondent filed
appeal, made the following observations on the issue of validity of driving
licence of Shri Taufiq Ahmad:
is also no dispute on the point that on verification of DL No. 19598 of
belonging to the driver Tofiq Mohd. It was not found genuine one and later on
District Transport Officer, Gauhati had found that it was not issued from their
office, meaning thereby it was a forged licence."
the aforesaid observation, the State Commission held that the insurance company
cannot be absolved of its liability to compensate the owner of the vehicle, who
cannot possibly be aware of the fact that the driver did not have valid driving
issue of use of transport vehicle for carrying passengers, the State Commission
our considered opinion, merely some passengers were sitting in the vehicle,
this fact itself would not exonerate the Insurance Co. unless and until it was
proved that the passengers sitting in the vehicle had attributed to the cause
of accident. This aspect is missing in this case and thus on that ground also
the second point of repudiation stands rejected."
the State Commission allowed the appeal and directed the Insurance Company
(appellant herein) to pay compensation of Rs.61,255/- with interest at the rate
of nine per cent from the date of filing the complaint. The National Commission
dismissed the appellant's revision by a rather short order and held that the
State Commission was right in observing that the insured was not in a position
to verify whether the original licence issued in 1987 was fake.
heard learned counsel for the parties at length. In our view, the orders passed
by the State Commission and National Commission are liable to be set aside
because the findings recorded by them on the issue of validity of driving
licence are legally untenable. In National Insurance Company Limited vs. Laxmi
Narain Dhut [2007 (3) S.C.C. 700], it has been clearly laid down that the
decision in the case of National Insurance Company Limited vs. Swaran Singh
& Anr. [2004 (3) S.C.C. 297] has no application to the cases other than
third-party risks and where originally licence was a fake, renewal thereof
...4/- - 4 - cannot validate the same. In the present case, the complaint was
filed for damage of the vehicle of the insured and not the third party risk.
The District Forum and State Commission have concurrently held that the
original licence of the driver was fake. This being the position, the District
Forum was justified in dismissing the complaint and the State Commission
committed an error by awarding compensation to the respondent.
the appeal is allowed, impugned orders passed by the State Commission as well
as the National Commission are set aside and the order passed by the District
Forum is restored.
......................J. [B.N. AGRAWAL]
......................J. [G.S. SINGHVI]
September 14, 2009.