4 April 2023 6:04 AM GMT
The Kerala High Court recently held that an accident could be said to have arisen 'out of the use of' a vehicle that had been stationary at the relevant time, in order to prove a claim under Section 163A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (hereinafter, 'MV Act, 1988'). Although the Single Judge Bench of Justice Sophy Thomas dismissed the appeal against the order of the Motor Accidents...
The Kerala High Court recently held that an accident could be said to have arisen 'out of the use of' a vehicle that had been stationary at the relevant time, in order to prove a claim under Section 163A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (hereinafter, 'MV Act, 1988').
Although the Single Judge Bench of Justice Sophy Thomas dismissed the appeal against the order of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Irinjalakuda, finding that the appellant does not fall within the ambit of the low income group under Section 163A of the MV Act with maximum annual income up to Rs.40,000/- , the Court relied upon precedents to observe that under the said provision, the appellant would not have to plead or establish any wrongful act or negligence or default of the owner of the vehicle or any other person.
"From the foregoing discussion, we can conclude that lorry was also involved in the accident as there occurred collision with that vehicle though it was parked by the side of the road. Being a claim under Section 163 A of the MV Act, the appellant shall not be required to plead or establish any wrongful act or negligence or default of the owner of the vehicle or vehicles concerned or of any other person. As far as the parked vehicle is concerned, the appellant can be considered as a Third Party," the Court observed.
The appellant, who had been travelling in his lorry as the owner-cum-spare driver, met with an accident as a result of which he sustained injuries including amputation of his right hand. The lorry he had been travelling in hit against another lorry that was parked in a public road in a negligent manner, without putting on the park lights or any other precautionary indications. When the appellant approached the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Irinjalakuda, with a claim under Section 163A of the MV Act, 1988, the same was dismissed finding the claim to not be maintainable. The appellant was hence, held not entitled to any compensation even under Section 166 of the MV Act. It is against the said decision that the appellant has approached the High Court through the present appeal.
It was admitted by Advocates P.V. Baby and A.N. Santhosh on behalf of the appellant that there was no personal accident coverage for the owner, as per the Policy Certificate, and he was hence, not making any claim against the Insurer of his lorry. It was further contended that even if the other lorry had been stationary at the time of accident, the accident still arose 'out of the use of that vehicle'. It was argued that this was because the only thing to be proved in a claim under Section 163A of the MV Act is that, the death or permanent disablement occurred due to the accident arising out of the use of motor vehicle, and the expression ‘use of a motor vehicle’ covers accidents, which occurred both when the vehicle is in motion and when it is stationary.
It was contended that had the lorry not been parked there, there would not have occurred any chance for collision. It was pointed out that even if it was found that the accident had been the result of the negligence of the driver of the appellant's vehicle, there still would not be any bar for the appellant to claim compensation under Section 163A of the MV Act, from the owner and Insurer of the other vehicle, since the accident arose 'out of the use of that vehicle' even if it was stationary.
On the other hand, it was argued by the counsels on behalf of the insurance company that insured the other lorry that had been stationery and into which the appellant's vehicle crashed, that the said lorry was not involved in any road traffic accident, as it had been safely parked on the roadside, while it was the appellant's vehicle that had been the cause of the accident due to the rash and negligent manner in which it was driven.
The Court in this case observed that a claim under Section 163A of the MV Act could be invoked even when negligence is on the part of the victim.
The Court noted that the Tribunal had, in this case, found that when negligence was alleged against the driver of the lorry that had been stationary, the claim ought to have been made under Section 166 of the MV Act.
"It is true that as the MV Act is a beneficial legislation even if a claim petition is made under Section 163 A of the MV Act, an injured/legal representatives of the deceased, should not be deprived from getting a just compensation irrespective of the fact, whether there was any pleading or not with reference to Section 166 of the MV Act, and that is the duty of the Tribunal/Court to consider the claim," the Court observed.
However, it noted that for a claim under Section 166 of the MV Act, the Court would have to find out who is at fault. Accordingly, the Court ascertained that there was clear evidence to show that the driver of the appellant's lorry had driven the vehicle in a rash and negligent manner, which was fortified by the fact that he had also pleaded guilty.
"If the accident occurred due to the rash and negligent driving of lorry by the 4th respondent, the appellant, who is the owner of that lorry, himself is vicariously liable, which the 5th respondent is liable to indemnify, on the basis of the contract of indemnity. The appellant, who is vicariously liable for the fault of his driver, cannot claim compensation from himself, as if he is a third party," the Court discerned.
It further observed that no premium had been paid for the personal accident coverage of the owner as per the Insurance Policy, and the appellant would thus not be entitled to any compensation from the Insurer of his vehicle. "The appellant himself admitted in court that he is not making any claim against the 5th respondent. So, the scope for treating his claim under Section 166 of the MV Act is foreclosed," the Court added.
As regards the question as to whether the claim of the appellant under Section 163 A of the MV Act is liable to be honoured by the insurer of the stationary lorry, the Court noted that as per the Second Schedule under Section 163A of the MV Act, compensation for third party fatal accidents cases is applicable only to persons having maximum annual income up to Rs.40,000/-.
The Court dispelled the arguments of the appellant that he had lost his income by selling his lorry.
"Since the appellant was not coming within the low income group with maximum annual income up to Rs.40,000/-, his claim under Section 163 A of the MV Act was liable to be dismissed. So I find no illegality or impropriety in the impugned award, warranting interference by this Court, except to the extent of setting aside the finding of the Tribunal that the expression ‘user of vehicle’ can be applied only as against the petitioner’s lorry No. KL-8/Y-9909," the Court observed while dismissing the appeal.
The respondents in this case were represented by Advocates A.C. Devy and Raji T. Bhaskkar.
Case Title: Sukumaran v. R.C. Ibrahim & Ors.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 168
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