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Motor Accident without license

Member (Account Deleted) ,
  13 August 2008       Share Bookmark

Court :
Supreme Court
Brief :
What happens if there is valid driving license in motor accident claim.
Citation :

Appeal (civil) 1213 of 2007

Ishwar Chandra & Ors

The Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. & Ors

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/03/2007

S.B. Sinha & Markandey Katju


[Arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 16437 of 2006]


Leave granted.

One Reshma Devi, aged about 40 years, was going to take bath at
Rajghat Ganga with her son, Respondent No.3 herein. Driver of an Eicher
Tractor bearing Registration No. U.P.30/8423 was driving the said vehicle
rashly and negligently hit her as a result whereof, she fell down. She died on
01.05.1995. A claim petition under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act,
1988 (for short, 'the Act) was filed by Respondent No. 2 herein. The said
tractor was insured with Respondent No.1, the Insurance Company.
The Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal by an award dated 14.10.2004
determined the amount of compensation payable to the said respondent at
Rs.1,06,000/-. Out of the said amount, a sum of Rs.75,000/- was to be paid
to Respondent No. 2 (husband of the deceased) and Rs.31,000/- to her son,
Respondent No.3 herein.

Respondent No.1, however, preferred an appeal thereagainst, which
was dismissed by an order dated 24.01.2005, stating :

"We, therefore, while dismissing the aforesaid appeal
give liberty to the appellant to initiate appropriate
proceedings against the owner and driver of the vehicle
for realization of the amount, which is to be paid by the
Insurance Company in terms of the award to the third
party-claimant subject to establishing its case before the

We further provide that the amount, which is in deposit
before this Court as well as before the Tribunal shall be
allowed to be withdrawn by the claimants/respondents.
The balance amount shall be deposited by the Insurance
Company within two months from today before the
Tribunal. On deposit so being made, the
claimants/respondents shall be allowed to withdraw the
same also without furnishing any security.

It will, however, be open to the Insurance Company to
recover the amount in question from the insured. For the
purpose of recovering the same from the insured owner
of the vehicle, the insurer shall not be required to file a
suit. It may initiate a proceedings before the Executing
Court as if the dispute between the insurer and the owner
was the subject matter of determination before the
Tribunal and the issue is decided against the owner and
in favour of the insurer. It is further directed that before
releasing the amount, the insured owner of the vehicle
shall be issued a notice and he shall be required to furnish
security for the entire amount, which the insurer will pay
to the claimants. This observation is in consonance with
the view taken by the Apex Court in case of Oriental
Insurance Co. Ltd. Vs. Nanjappan and Others, AIR 2004
SC page 1630."

Respondent No.1, however, filed an application for review of the said
order, inter alia, on the premise that as on the date of the accident,
admittedly, the driver was not holding any valid licence in terms of the
judgment of this Court in National Insurance Company Limited v. Swaran
Singh and Others [(2004) 3 SCC 297]. Relying on or on the basis of the
decision of this Court in Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Nanjappan and
Others [AIR 2004 SC 1630], the said application for review was dismissed.

The learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellants would
submit that although the licence held by the driver of the tractor expired on
27.08.1994, the same later on having been renewed, the Insurance Company
was liable to reimburse the amount of compensation payable by the
appellants to the claimant-respondents.

The learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondents, however,
supported the impugned judgment.

Section 15(1) of the Act and the first proviso appended thereto reads
as under :
"15. Renewal of driving licences. (1) Any licensing
authority may, on application made to it, renew a driving
licence issued under the provisions of this Act with effect
from the dale of its expiry:
Provided that in any case where the application
for the renewal of a licence is made more than thirty days
after the dale of its expiry, the driving licence shall be
renewed with effect from the date of its renewal:"

From a bare perusal of the said provision, it would appear that the
licence is renewed in terms of the said Act and the rules framed thereunder.
The proviso appended to Section 15(1) of the Act in no uncertain terms
states that whereas the original licence granted despite expiry remains valid
for a period of 30 days from the date of expiry, if any application for
renewal thereof is filed thereafter, the same would be renewed from the date
of its renewal. The accident took place 28.04.1995. As on the said date, the
renewal application had not been filed, the driver, did not have a valid
licence on the date when the vehicle met with the accident.

In Swaran Singh (supra), whereupon the learned counsel appearing on
behalf of the appellants relied upon, it is stated :
"45. Thus, a person whose licence is ordinarily renewed
in terms of the Motor Vehicles Act and the Rules framed
thereunder, despite the fact that during the interregnum
period, namely, when the accident took place and the
date of expiry of the licence, he did not have a valid
licence, he could during the prescribed period apply for
renewal thereof and could obtain the same automatically
without undergoing any further test or without having
been declared unqualified therefor. Proviso appended to
Section 14 in unequivocal terms states that the licence
remains valid for a period of thirty days from the day of
its expiry.
46. Section 15 of the Act does not empower the
authorities to reject an application for renewal only on
the ground that there is a break in validity or tenure of the
driving licence has lapsed, as in the meantime the
provisions for disqualification of the driver contained in
Sections 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 will not be attracted,
would indisputably confer a right upon the person to get
his driving licence renewed. In that view of the matter, he
cannot be said to be delicensed and the same shall remain
valid for a period of thirty days after its expiry."

This aspect of the matter is now covered by a decision of this Court in
National Insurance Company v. Kusum Rai & Others [(2006) 4 SCC 250],
wherein this Court referring to Swaran Singh (supra), opined :
"14. This Court in Swaran Singh clearly laid down that the
liability of the Insurance Company vis-`-vis the owner
would depend upon several factors. The owner would be
liable for payment of compensation in a case where the
driver was not having a licence at all. It was the obligation
on the part of the owner to take adequate care to see that
the driver had an appropriate licence to drive the vehicle.
The question as regards the liability of the owner vis-`-vis
the driver being not possessed of a valid licence was
considered in Swaran Singh stating: (SCC pp. 336-37, para
89. Section 3 of the Act casts an obligation on a
driver to hold an effective driving licence for the
type of vehicle which he intends to drive. Section 10
of the Act enables the Central Government to
prescribe forms of driving licences for various
categories of vehicles mentioned in sub-section (2)
of the said section. The various types of vehicles
described for which a driver may obtain a licence for
one or more of them are: (a) motorcycle without
gear, (b) motorcycle with gear, (c) invalid carriage,
(d) light motor vehicle, (e) transport vehicle, (f) road
roller, and (g) motor vehicle of other specified
description. The definition clause in Section 2 of the
Act defines various categories of vehicles which are
covered in broad types mentioned in sub-section (2)
of Section 10. They are goods carriage, heavy goods
vehicle, heavy passenger motor vehicle, invalid
carriage, light motor vehicle, maxi-cab, medium
goods vehicle, medium passenger motor vehicle,
motor-cab, motorcycle, omnibus, private service
vehicle, semi-trailer, tourist vehicle, tractor, trailer
and transport vehicle. In claims for compensation
for accidents, various kinds of breaches with regard
to the conditions of driving licences arise for
consideration before the Tribunal as a person
possessing a driving licence for motorcycle without
gear, [sic may be driving a vehicle] for which he has
no licence. Cases may also arise where a holder of
driving licence for light motor vehicle is found to be
driving a maxi-cab, motor-cab or omnibus for which
he has no licence. In each case, on evidence led
before the Tribunal, a decision has to be taken
whether the fact of the driver possessing licence for
one type of vehicle but found driving another type of
vehicle, was the main or contributory cause of
accident. If on facts, it is found that the accident was
caused solely because of some other unforeseen or
intervening causes like mechanical failures and
similar other causes having no nexus with the driver
not possessing requisite type of licence, the insurer
will not be allowed to avoid its liability merely for
technical breach of conditions concerning driving
[See Nanjappan (supra)]

In this view of the matter, there is no merit in this appeal, which is
dismissed accordingly. However, in the facts and circumstances of the case,
there shall be no order as to costs.
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