4 August 2020


Judgments

Supreme Court

Dinesh Kumar J. Vs. National Insurance Co. Ltd. and Ors.

MANU/SC/1607/2017

15.12.2017

Motor Vehicles

If a person drives vehicle without a licence, he commits an offence that may not lead to finding of negligence as regards accident

The present appeal arises from a judgment of the High Court of Karnataka. Appellant who was riding a motorcycle met with an accident with a mini lorry belonging to the Second and Third Respondents. The lorry was insured with the First Respondent. As a result of the accident, the Appellant suffered grievous injuries. The medical certificate issued by the Bangalore Baptist Hospital indicates spinal injuries.

Tribunal held that, the Appellant was guilty of contributory negligence to the extent of forty per cent and hence, granted sixty per cent of Rs. 9 lakhs amounting to Rs. 5.40 lakhs. In appeal, the High Court has enhanced the award of medical expenses by a further sum of Rs. 1,77,775 on the basis of the bills produced by the Appellant. On the aspect of contributory negligence, the High Court affirmed the finding of the Tribunal. The award of compensation of Rs. 9 lakhs has been enhanced to Rs. 10,77,775 and, after making a deduction of forty per cent towards contributory negligence, the Appellant has been held entitled to an amount of Rs. 6,46,665. All the Respondents have been held to be jointly and severally liable.

Both the tribunal, and in appeal in the High Court, have found fault with the Appellant for not having produced his driving licence. The Tribunal noted that, the Appellant had admitted in the course of his cross-examination that, the road where the accident took place was a two way road and that on each side, three vehicles could pass at a time. A suggestion was put to the Appellant that, while trying to overtake another vehicle, he had approached the offending lorry from the right side as a result of which the accident took place. The Appellant denied the suggestion. The award of the tribunal indicates that, absolutely no evidence was produced by the insurer to support the plea that, there was contributory negligence on the part of the Appellant.

Plea of contributory negligence was accepted purely on the basis of conjecture and without any evidence. Once the finding that there was contributory negligence on the part of the Appellant is held to be without any basis, the second aspect which weighed both with the tribunal and the High Court, that the Appellant had not produced the driving licence, would be of no relevance. This aspect has been considered in a judgment of this Court in Sudhir Kumar Rana v. Surinder Singh where it was held that, if a person drives a vehicle without a licence, he commits an offence. The same, by itself, may not lead to a finding of negligence as regards the accident.

Supreme Court is of the view that, the deduction of forty per cent which was made on the ground of contributory negligence is without any basis. Accordingly, the Appellant shall be entitled to an additional amount of Rs. 4.60 lakhs which was wrongly disallowed. Respondent shall accordingly pay an additional amount of Rs. 4,60,000, over and above the amount which has been awarded by the High Court. This amount shall also carry interest at the rate of eight per cent per annum as awarded by the High Court, from the date of the petition until realization. The insurer shall deposit the amount before the tribunal within 3 months which shall be released to the Appellant. The appeal is allowed.

Relevant

Sudhir Kumar Rana v. Surinder SinghMANU/SC/7619/2008
: (2008) 12 SCC 436

Tags : Contributory negligence Basis Compensation

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