Report No. 85
3.24. Pronouncements of High Courts.-
Difficulties and impediments in the expeditious disposal by Claims Tribunals of claims for compensation under the Act have been adverted to by some High Courts, since 1969. The Patna High Court1 went to the length of ruling that in claim cases it was not essential to allege and prove negligence for making the Insurance Company liable for payment of compensation and that the liability of the Insurance Company was absolute, though limited to the extent provided in the policy. As against this view, many other High Courts held that the liability to compensation arises only on the finding of negligence. The later view was upheld by the Supreme Court1. But need for reform was noted in Kesavan Nair v. State Insurance Officer.2-3 Krishna Iyer J. (as a Judge of the Kerala High Court), while holding that the insurer is liable to pay only if the insured is liable to pay, observed:-
"Out of a sense of humanity and having due regard to the handicap of the innocent victim in establishing the negligence of the operator of the vehicle a blanket liability must be cast on the insurer, instead of its being restricted to cases where the vehicle operator has been shown to be negligent. This is more a matter for the legislature and not for the court. But this is a lacuna in the law which I think it would be just to rectify."
1. New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Sumitra Devi, 1971 AC) 58 (Pat).
2. Minu B. Mehta, para. 3.27, infra.
3. Kesavan Nair v. State Insurance Officer, 1971 ACT 219 (Ker).