Recently, Hon’ble Justice S.M Modak of Bombay High Court Nagpur Bench passed an order in the case of Smt. Mangala & Ors vs National Insurance Company Limited and directed the insurance company to pay the appellants a sum Rs. 2 Lakh as compensation.
Bombay High Court has disagreed with the Judgment of Karnataka High Court and Madras High Court on the question of law, as to the liability of the insurance company in case injury/death of policy-holder of the vehicle.
Brief facts of The Case
Mr Vijay Khandar, who was the owner of a Jeep and the policyholder rammed his Jeep into a tree on 16.10.2004. The driver was trying to avoid a head-on collision with a Tata Sumo car that was coming from the opposite end. Due to the accident, the deceased/policyholder lost his life.
The family member of the deceased filed a claim petition. The respondents( insurance company) denied their liability and stated that the policy only covered third-party claims and as in the instant case, the policyholder himself died due to injuries; the insurance company should be absolved of its liability.
The Tribunal concurred with the argument of the Insurance Company and held that ‘the owner/insured could not be said to be a third party and hence exonerated the company).
Aggrieved by order of the trial court, the claimants moved to Bombay High Court.
Issues before the High Court
There were two main issues placed before the High Court:-
- Does Insurance policy cover injury to the policy-holder?
- Is the insurance company liable to reimburse the claimants?
- Can M.A.C.T. award compensation in the instant case?
Judgements relied on by the appellants:-
- Oriental Insurance Company Limited Vs. Rajni Devi and Ors:-
In this case, a claim was filed under Section 163-A of M.V. Act. The motorcycle met with an accident, and the rider succumbed to his injuries, as the owner had paid Rs. 50 extra to cover his insurance, liability of compensation was calculated to be Rs. 100000.
- National Insurance Company Limited Vs. Ashalata Bhowmik and Ors
The insurance company was held liable in this case and was directed to compensate the legal representatives of the owner. The Court opined that in cases where the insured is not held liable, the question of liability of the insurer does not arise, but the insurance company was directed to pay Rs.2,00,000 to the family of the deceased as compensation.
- Ramkhiladi and Anr. Vs. The United India Insurance Company and Anr
Two motorcycles met with an accident in this case, and the driver of one of the motorcycles died. The family of the deceased filed a case under Section 163-A of M.V. Act against the insurance company. The Supreme Court held that the deceased was a permissible owner and not an employee of the owner. It held that the contract of insurance governed the parties, and the claimants were awarded Rs One Lakh as compensation.
Judgements relied on by the Respondents.
- Smt. Sangeetha Subramani and others Vs. Sri Krishna Chari Puttachari (Karnataka High Court)
In this case, the question before the Court was whether the driver of a two-wheeler ( who is not an owner) could claim compensation as a third party. The Court answered in the negative and held that the claimants could not claim compensation as a third party.
- Cholamandalam MS General Insurance Company Limited Vs. Ramesh Babu (Madras High Court)
This case pertains to the liability of the insurance company to comply with the promises made in regards to personal accident coverage of a package policy. The Court passed an order in favour of the insurance company, and the petition was dismissed.
Reasoning Of the Court
The Court opined that the High Court had taken a restricted view in the Cholamandalam case in the context of jurisdiction of M.A.C.T.
As per Section 165 of MV act, M.A.C.T. gets jurisdiction when two conditions are met:
1) when a claim of compensation is in respect of accidents
2) when the claim arises out of the use of Motor Vehicles.
The Court opined that the M.A.C.T. would have jurisdiction because if the conditions are met, and in this case, as the claim is because of a motor accident, M.A.C.T. will have jurisdiction.
The Court also held that where contractual terms are concerned, the deceased had paid rs. 100 as premium towards compulsory personal accident and the maximum liability is calculated to be Rs 2,00,000
The Decision of the Court
The Court opined that the insurance company should pay Rs 2,00,000 to the appellants and they will also receive 6 percent interest from the date of filing the petition till the time the amount is disbursed to them. Accordingly, the appeal was allowed.
Title: Smt. Mangala & Ors vs National Insurance Company Limited
Case No. FIRST APPEAL NO. 378 OF 2020
Date of Order: 29.09.2020
Coram: Hon’ble Justice S. M Modak
Advocates: Shri H.P. Lingayat, Advocate for the Appellants. Shri B.P. Bhatt, Advocate for the Respondent.