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United India Insurance Co Ltd Vs Sushil Kumar Godara: When An Insurable Incident That Potentially Results In Liability Occurs, There Should Be No Fundamental Breach Of The Conditions Contained In The Contract Of Insurance

Prahalad B ,
  08 November 2021       Share Bookmark

Court :
Supreme Court
Brief :

Citation :
Civil Appeal No. 5887 of 2021

Date of Judgement:

30.09.2021

Coram:
Justice Uday Umesh Lalit
Justice S Ravindra Bhat
Justice Bela M Trivedi

Parties:
Appellant – United India Insurance Co. Ltd.
Respondent – Sushil Kumar Godara

Subject

If a vehicle without a valid registration is used/driven on a public place or any other place, it would constitute a fundamental breach of terms and conditions of the policy.

Legal Provisions

  • Section 39 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 - No person shall drive any motor vehicle and no owner of a motor vehicle shall cause or permit the vehicle to be driven in any public place or in any other place unless the vehicle is registered in accordance with this Chapter and the certificate of registration of the vehicle has not been suspended or cancelled and the vehicle carries a registration mark displayed in the prescribed manner.
  • Section 43 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 – Temporary registration.
  • Section 192 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 – Using vehicle without registration.

Overview

  • The respondent herein obtained an insurance policy from the appellant for his car. The car’s temporary registration expired on 19.07.2011. On 28.07.2011, the respondent travelled to Jodhpur and stayed at a lodge. He parked his car outside the parking premise of the lodge. Subsequently, his car was stolen.
  • The respondent claimed the loss from the appellant. However, the appellant rejected the claim on the grounds that the temporary registration had already expired and did not get the vehicle permanently registered and the respondent had left his car outside the lodge’s premise unattended.
  • Aggrieved by the rejection, the respondent filed a complaint before the District Forum Consumer Protection praying for the claim amount to be paid by the appellant company and compensation for the mental agony. The District Forum Consumer Protection dismissed the complaint. Aggrieved by this, the respondent appealed before the State Commission which set aside the previous order and allowed the appeal on the grounds that the rejection was petty and frivolous. An appeal was preferred before NCDRC which was again dismissed.
  • The counsel for appellant argued before this court that the NCDRC made a blunder by not accepting and appreciating the judgement in Narinder Singh V. New India Assurance Co. Ltd. (2014) wherein the Supreme Court passed a binding judgement.
  • The counsel for the respondent argued that the facts and circumstances of the case in Narinder Singh case was different as in that case the car met with an accident. The counsel for the respondent also argued that the case was not that the car was not registered but its temporary registration had expired.
  • Issue
  • Whether the rejection of insurance claim by the appellant citing reason of expiration of temporary registration of the vehicle valid?

Judgement Analysis

  • The court while examining the facts of case noted that the respondent after the expiry of the temporary registration had travelled to another city and parked outside the premises of where he was staying. The court pointed out that there was no indication of the application for permanent registration by the respondent nor he was waiting for registration. Hence, the court held that the judgement in Narinder Singh will apply and is binding.
  • The court further held that on the date of the incident, the vehicle had been driven without a valid registration, which is a violation of Sections 39 and 192 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1986. This is a fundamental breach of the terms and conditions of the policy, as held in Narinder Singh case, entitling the insurer to refuse the claim. Hence, the appeal was allowed by setting aside the NCDRC’s order.

Conclusion

Using/driving an unregistered vehicle is not only a violation of Section 192 of the Act which is punishable but will also be in breach of the terms and conditions of an insurance contract.

Click here to download the original copy of the judgement

Questions:

  1. Which section in the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 provides for punishment if a vehicle is used/driven without registration?
  2. If a motor vehicle is registered in a particular state, should it also be registered anywhere the vehicle is driven?
 
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