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  • Rule of evidence to prove charges in a criminal trial cannot be used while deciding an application under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act held by the supreme court.
  • The two-judge Bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Vikram Nath observed that the application under the Act has to be decided on the basis of evidence led before it and not on the basis of evidence which should have been or could have been led in a criminal trial.
  • The case that led to this decision was of Janabai Dinkarrao Ghorpade vs ICICI Lambord Issurance Company Limited.
  • The SC further highlighted that the entire approach of the High Court was clearly not sustainable.
  • The legal heirs of deceased Dinkar Shankarrao Ghorpade filed an appeal against an order passed by the High Court of Judicature at Bombay whereby, the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal awarded a sum of Rs.8,90,000/- along with interest @7% p.a. 
  • The deceased was driving motorcycle, when a Maruti-800 Car came from the opposite direction and dashed into the motorcycle of the deceased as per the appellants. The deceased and appellant No. 1 received serious injuries. 
  • The deceased was thus admitted in a Government Hospital, but he died. The cause of death was a head injury.
  • Because of death of the deceased, an application under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 for grant of compensation was filed. The owner of the vehicle denied the accident.
  • The High Court did not accept the findings that the accident was caused by the car owned by the owner and the negligent driving on the part of the driver.
  • The High Court noticed the fact that neither the owner of the offending car nor the Insurance Company has examined the driver to prove that the offending car was not involved in the accident.
  • It was further held that appellant No. 1 - the injured pillion rider had lodged a report against an unknown car driver, after one month from the date of incident. In the FIR, there was no mention that her injured husband was taken to hospital, but the said vehicle was involved in the accident was not disclosed. 
  • It was also found that the married daughters of the deceased were not made party to the claim petition, doubting the bona fides of the appellants. Thus, doubting the statement of appellant No. 1 regarding the accident, the appeal filed by the Insurance Company was allowed and the claim petition was dismissed.
  • It has also come on record that the owner has not made any complaint in respect of false implication of his vehicle or the driver.
  • The court found that the rule of evidence to prove charges in a criminal trial cannot be used while deciding an application under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 which is summary in nature.
  • The appellants have not filed any appeal seeking enhancement of compensation awarded by the Tribunal before the High Court.
  • The relevance of National Insurance Company Limited v. Pranay Sethi &Ors was taken into consideration by the court.
  • Consequently, the order passed by the High Court was set aside. The appeal thus stood allowed.
  • The compensation awarded was Rs. 11,63,000/- along with interest @ 7% p.a. as awarded by learned Tribunal from the date of filing of the claim application till realization.
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