Aisha Vs. Xavier & Ors.
DATE OF ORDER:
16 September 2022
Justice Sophy Thomas
Respondent: Xavier &Ors.
The Kerala High Court ruled that there would not be a violation of Section 149(2)(a)(ii) of the Motor Vehicles Act when the owner of a vehicle is confident that the driver has a licence and is operating the vehicle competently. As a result, the Insurance Company would not be released from their obligation to provide compensation.
Motor Vehicles Act:
- Section (3)(1) - Necessity for driving licence. - No person shall drive a motor vehicle in any public place unless he holds an effective driving licence issued to him authorising him to drive the vehicle; and no person shall so drive a transport vehicle [other than 3 [a motor cab or motor cycle] hired for his own use or rented under any scheme made under sub-section(2) of section 75] unless his driving license specifically entitles him so to do.
- Section 149(2)(a)(ii) - A condition excluding driving by a named person or persons or by any person who is not duly licensed, or by any person who has been disqualified for holding or obtaining a driving licence during the period of disqualification;
- Section 181 - Racing and trails of speed. - Whoever without the written consent of the State Government permits or takes part in a race or trial of speed of any kind between motor vehicles in any public place shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.
- On the case of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Perumbavoor, the first respondent/owner raised an issue contesting the pay and restitution decreed by the tribunal.
- According to the contested judgement, the learned Tribunal awarded the injured Rs. 5,66,061/- in compensation and ordered the insurance company to deposit the money with interest.
- The Insurance Company was allowed to reclaim the compensation money placed by them from respondents 1 and 2, the owner and driver of the offending car, as the driving license of the 2nd respondent was discovered to be a fake. The first respondent/owner in this appeal contests that order.
- It is admitted that the carriage belonged to the first respondent/appellant and was operated by the second respondent. The third respondent-Insurance Company had this vehicle’s proper insurance. It was established in court that the accident was caused by the second respondent’s hasty and careless operation of the offending bus. He was charged with violating Section 3(1) read with Section 181 of the Motor Vehicles Act on the grounds that he was presumed to be driving without a valid license since he refused to show his license for the investigating officer to see despite being served with notice.
Whether the owner of the offending vehicle, who bonafide believed the driving license of the driver as a genuine one, is liable to restitute the compensation amount paid by the Insurance Company?
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE PETITIONER
- The appellant/owner of the appeal does not contest the Tribunal’s determination that the second respondent’s driver’s license was a fake. She did not ask whether the original license issued by the Regional Transport Office, Chennai was genuine or not, however, as there was nothing to call into question the authenticity of that document.
- Instead, she claimed that the driver produced a driving license that was renewed from a local RTO, and she was satisfied with the competency of the driver to drive the vehicle properly. She didn’t learn that the second respondent’s driver’s license was fake until after witnesses were called and they spoke before the Tribunal.
- The appellant claimed that, in her capacity as a reasonable and responsible person, she verified the driver’s driving license when it was renewed by a nearby RTO and never realised that the initial license, which was allegedly granted by the Regional Transport Office in Chennai, was a fake.
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT
- The third respondent/insurer argued in the written statement that because the second respondent did not possess a valid and current driver’s license and because the first respondent/owner had given the vehicle to the second respondent in violation of the terms and conditions of the policy, the Company was not obligated to compensate the real owner.
- It was explicitly alleged in the written statement submitted by respondents 1 and 2 that the 2nd respondent held a driver’s license that was valid from December 1, 2006, to November 30, 2009. The incident happened on December 22, 2006.
- For the third respondent/insurer, learned counsel Sri.P.G. Ganappan made the argument that because the second respondent’s driver’s license was a fake and the owner let him operate the offending vehicle without checking its validity, the insurer is not responsible for compensating the insured.
- The insured’s learned attorney said that the owner could have known right away that the driver’s license was a fake if she had checked the driver’s competence and the legitimacy of his license before appointing him as a driver.
- The Court was inclined to accept the appellant’s argument that there was no violation of Section 150(2)(a)(ii) of the amended Act 32 of 2019 because she honestly regarded the second respondent’s renewed licence to be authentic.As a result, since the at-fault car had a valid insurance policy with the insurance company, they cannot be freed of their responsibility to an innocent third party.
- The owner is not responsible for compensating the victim because she was not aware that the driver's driving license he or she presented was a fake, hence the insurer cannot take action against the owner. However, because the driver was negligent and knew his license was a fake when the accident happened, he was responsible for paying the victim’s damages.
Since the at-fault car was properly insured with the third respondent/insurer, the insurer was obligated to make restitution to the innocent third party and may pursue payment from the driver due to the existence of a quasi-contract between the two parties.As a result, the appeal was allowed, reversing the impugned decision to the extent that it allowed the appellant/first respondent-owner to be compensated. No cost-related order.
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