HC sets aside recovery rights of insurer on payment of compensation to road accident victim
The Delhi High Court has reiterated that a licence issued to drive Light Motor Vehicles (LMVs) includes authorization to drive transport vehicle (commercial vehicle), including a tractor, and what matters is that the gross vehicle weight or the unladen weight of the vehicle should not exceed 7,500 kg.
Justice Jayant Nath said so while setting aside the recovery rights granted by the court to an insurance company way back in 2014 in a road accident case while holding that the driver of the tractor had the licence to drive an LMV and was, therefore, not eligible to drive a transport vehicle (in this case, a tractor).
The court had back then directed the insurance company to compensate the victim while granting it the right to recover the amount from the insured.
The driver’s employer Devinder Kumar Kukreja moved the high court seeking review of the September 23, 2014 order pleading that the driver was authorized to drive the tractor as he had an LMV licence.
Kukreja’s counsel Sanjay Vashishtha relied on the apex court judgement in Mukund Dewangn vs. Oriental Insurance Company Limited wherein it was held that the definition of ‘light motor vehicle' makes it clear that for a transport vehicle or omnibus, the gross vehicle weight of either a motor car or tractor or road-roller, the unladen weight of any of which, does not exceed 7,500 kg.
“The definition of ‘light motor vehicle' has to be given full effect to and it has to be read with Section 10(2)(d) which makes it abundantly clear that 'light motor vehicle' is also a 'transport vehicle', the gross vehicle weight or unladen weight of which does not exceed 7500 kgs as specified in the provision.
Thus, a driver has issued a licence as per the class of vehicle i.e., light motor vehicle, transport vehicle or omnibus or another vehicle of other categories as per gross vehicle weight or unladen weight as specified in Section 2(21) of the Act. The provision of Section 3 of the Act requires that a person in order to drive a 'transport vehicle' must have authorization. Once a licence is issued to drive light motor vehicle, it would also mean specific authorization to drive a transport vehicle or omnibus, the gross vehicle weight or motor car, road roller or tractor, the unladen weight of which, as the case may be, does not exceed 7500 kg,” the Supreme Court had held.
Relying on this judgment of the apex court, Justice Nath said, “I hence modify the order dated 23.9.2014. The recovery rights which were given to respondent No.6 (insurance company) by the impugned order are set aside”.
In the instant case, the victim (deceased) was going on his motorcycle when he was hit by the tractor being driven by respondent No.5 in a rash and negligent manner.
The tribunal awarded a compensation of Rs.6,01,176 to the kin of the victim while noting that Kukreja had himself stated that he had employed respondent No.5 for running of the water tanker and that respondent No.5 had a valid license for light motor vehicle (non-transport).
The tribunal concluded that the driver of the offending vehicle did not have a valid driving licence and directed the insurance company to first pay the compensation amount awarded and then have recovery rights.
The high court, in an appeal decided in 2014, rejected Kukreja’s contention that the driver was authorized to drive the said tractor as it held that where a tractor is fitted with a trolley and is used for commercial purpose, then merely because the driver was having a driving licence for an LMV would not make him eligible to drive a transport vehicle based on the same licence.
This order now stands modified and the recovery rights of the insurance company have been set aside.