IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL Nos. 6199-6202 OF 2016
(ARISING OUT OF SLP (C) Nos.33036-33039 of 2015)
Rakesh Kumar & Etc. Etc. …….Appellant(s)
United India Insurance Company
Ltd. & Ors. Etc.Etc. ……Respondent(s)
J U D G M E N T
Abhay Manohar Sapre, J.
1. Leave granted.
2. These appeals are filed against the common final judgment and order
dated 22.05.2014 passed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at
Chandigarh in F.A.O. Nos. 6935, 6937, 6977 of 2011 and 907 of 2012 (O&M)
wherein the High Court partly allowed the appeals of the Insurance Company
and reversed the award dated 13.09.2011 of the Motor Accident Claims
Tribunal, Ambala in MACT Case Nos. 97, 109 of 2008 and 28 of 2009 and
exonerated the Insurance Company from the liability arising out of the
3. Facts of the case lie in a narrow compass. They, however, need
mention in brief to appreciate the short controversy involved in the
4. On 16.09.2008, Sheo Ram, Madan Mohan, and Mohindro Devi along with
others were traveling in a three wheeler bearing Registration No. PH-11TC-
468 from Naraingarh to Shahzadpur. Madan Mohan was driving the three
wheeler on the left side of the road. At about 10.30 a.m., when the three
wheeler reached near Bus stop of Village Bharanpur on Naraingarh Shahzadpur
Road, a truck bearing Registration No. HR-37-C-7937, which came from the
opposite side, struck the three wheeler. Though its driver Madan Mohan
tried to avoid the accident by taking his vehicle on the extreme left side
of the road, yet all the occupants of the three wheeler suffered multiple
injuries. The injured were taken to Civil Hospital, Naraingarh in private
vehicles. Thereafter, Sheo Ram was referred to PGI Chandigarh where he
succumbed to his injuries. A criminal case bearing FIR No. 88 dated
16.09.2008 was registered against Jaipal, driver of Truck No. HR-37-C-7937
at the Police Station, Shahzadpur, District Ambala for the commission of
offence punishable under Sections 279/337/304-A of the Indian Penal Code,
1860 (hereinafter referred to as “the Code”). Madan Mohan, another
injured, who was driver of the three wheeler also died later at Civil
Hospital, Naraingarh. Smt. Mohindro Devi, the third injured, also suffered
a number of injuries in the accident and was shifted to Civil Hospital,
Naraingarh but later she also died.
5. The legal representatives of Sheo Ram filed claim petition being MACT
Case No. 97/2008, the legal representatives of Madan Mohan filed claim
petition being MACT Case No. 109 of 2008 and legal representatives of
Mohindro Devi filed claim petition being MACT Case No. 28 of 2009 before
the MACT (in short “the Tribunal”), Ambala under Section 166 of the Motor
Vehicle Act, 1988 against the owner, driver and insurer of offending
vehicle, i.e., HR-37-C-7937 claiming compensation for a sum of
Rs.20,00,000/-, Rs.20,00,000/-and Rs.10,00,000/- respectively.
6. It was contested by the non-applicants. One of the defence of
Insurance Company (R-3 therein) was that the driver of the offending
vehicle had no valid and effective license and hence no liability can be
fastened on the Insurance Company.
7. The Tribunal, vide common award dated 13.09.2011, allowed the
petitions filed by the claimants and awarded a sum of Rs.6,05,000/- in MACT
Case No. 97/2008, Rs.4,56,8000/- in MACT Case No.109 of 2008 and Rs.51,448/-
in MACT Case No.28 of 2009. It was, inter alia, held that the Insurance
Company is liable to pay compensation as the driver of the offending
vehicle was holding a valid and effective driving license. It was also
held that the Insurance Company failed to adduce any evidence to prove to
8. Challenging the said order, the Insurance Company filed FAO Nos.
6935, 6937 and 6977/2011 and the claimants filed FAO Nos. 906 and 907 of
2012 seeking enhancement of the compensation.
9. By impugned judgment dated 22.05.2014, the High Court reversed the
award of the Tribunal in part in the appeals filed by the Insurance Company
and held that since the driver of the offending vehicle did not possess a
valid license to drive the vehicle because he failed to file the original
one and filed its photocopy, the Insurance Company cannot be held liable to
pay the awarded sum. In other words, the High Court held that the driving
license was not properly proved and hence it cannot be held that the driver
was having a valid driving license. In this view of the matter, the
Insurance Company was exonerated from the liability from paying the
compensation. However, the Insurance Company was directed to pay the
awarded sum to the claimants first and then to recover the awarded sum from
the owner and driver of the offending vehicle on the principle of ‘pay and
10. Challenging the said order, the owner has filed these appeals by way
of special leave before this Court.
11. A short question that arises for consideration in these appeals is
whether the High Court was justified in exonerating the Insurance Company
from the liability on the ground that the driver of the offending vehicle
did not possess valid license?
12. Heard Mr. A. Tewari, learned counsel for the appellant and Mr. A.K.
De, learned counsel for respondent No.1.
13. Submission of Mr. A. Tewari, learned counsel for the appellant, while
attacking the impugned order was essentially two-fold.
14. In the first place, learned counsel urged that the High Court erred
in exonerating the Insurance Company from the liability arising out of the
accident. He submitted that the Tribunal having rightly held that the
Insurance Company was liable to pay the compensation to the claimants as
the driver of offending vehicle was having a valid driving license at the
time of accident and that the vehicle in question was admittedly insured
with the insurance company, there was no justifiable reason for the High
Court to have reversed the finding of the Tribunal and exonerated the
Insurance Company from the liability.
15. In the second place, learned counsel urged that the High Court failed
to see that the driver of the offending vehicle had filed the photo copy of
his driving license, which was also proved (Exhibit-R 1) by him without
there being any objection of the Insurance Company. Learned counsel further
pointed out that apart from this, the Insurance Company failed to adduce
any evidence to prove that the license held by the driver was fake or not
16. Learned counsel urged that the finding of the High Court is,
therefore, not legally sustainable and hence deserves to be set aside and
that of the Tribunal on this issue is liable to be restored.
17. In reply, learned counsel for respondent No.1 (Insurance Company)
supported the reasoning of the High Court and contended that the impugned
order should be upheld calling no interference therein.
18. Having heard the learned counsel for the parties and on perusal of
the record of the case, we are inclined to accept the submissions urged by
the learned counsel for the appellant as in our opinion, they deserve
19. In our considered opinion, the Tribunal was right in holding that the
driver of the offending vehicle possessed a valid driving license at the
time of accident and that the Insurance Company failed to adduce any
evidence to prove otherwise. This finding of the Tribunal, in our view,
should not have been set aside by the High Court for the following reasons:
20. First, the driver of the offending vehicle (N.A.-2) proved his
driving license (Exhibit-R1) in his evidence. Second, when the license was
proved, the Insurance Company did not raise any objection about its
admissibility or manner of proving. Third, even if any objection had been
raised, it would have had no merit because it has come on record that the
original driving license was filed by the driver in the Court of Judicial
Magistrate First class, Naraingarh in a criminal case arising out of the
same accident. Fourth, in any event, once the license was proved by the
driver and marked in evidence and without there being any objection by the
Insurance Company, the Insurance Company had no right to raise any
objection about the admissibility and manner of proving of the license at a
later stage (See Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. Vs. Premlata Shukla &
Ors., (2007) 13 SCC 476) and lastly, the Insurance Company failed to adduce
any evidence to prove that the driving license (Ex.R1) was either fake or
invalid for some reason.
21. In the light of foregoing reasons, we are of the considered opinion
that the High court was not right in reversing the finding of the Tribunal.
Indeed, the High Court should have taken note of these reasons which, in
our view, were germane for deciding the issue of liability of the Insurance
Company arising out of the accident.
22. We, therefore, find no good ground to concur with the finding of the
High Court. Thus while reversing the finding, we hold that the driver of
the offending vehicle was holding a valid driving license (Exhibit-R1) at
the time of accident and since the Insurance Company failed to prove
otherwise, it was liable to pay the compensation awarded by the Tribunal
and enhanced by the High Court.
23. In view of foregoing discussion, the appeals filed by the insured
(owner of the offending vehicle) succeed and are allowed. Impugned order
in so far as it relates to exonerating of the Insurance Company from the
liability to pay the compensation is set aside and the Insurance Company
(Respondent No.1) is held liable to pay the compensation awarded by the
Tribunal and enhanced by the High Court jointly and severally along with
the driver and owner of the offending vehicle.
24. No costs.
[ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE] New Delhi;
July 13, 2016