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Bimlesh and Ors. vs. New India Assurance Co. Ltd. dated 2010-08-03

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2164 OF 2004
Bimlesh and Ors. …Appellants
Versus
New India Assurance Co. Ltd. ...Respondent
JUDGMENT
R.M. Lodha, J.
The claimants are in appeal by special leave
aggrieved by the judgment and order dated October 1, 2002
of the High Court for the States of Punjab and Haryana at
Chandigarh. The High Court by the said order, set aside the
order dated August 7, 2001 of the Motor Accident Claims
Tribunal, Gurgaon, (for short, ‘the Claims Tribunal’) and held
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that claim petition filed by the claimants under Section 163–
A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (for short, ‘Act, 1988’)
was not maintainable against the respondent-New India
Assurance Company Ltd. (for short, ‘the Insurance
Company’).
2. Siri Bhagwan was the registered owner of a Jeep
bearing No. HR-26-G-0179 which was being used as a
Maxicab. The said vehicle was insured with the Insurance
Company for the period from August 30, 1999 to August 29,
2000. He himself used to drive that vehicle. An accident
occurred on August 15, 2000; Siri Bhagwan while driving the
said vehicle on Rewari-Pataudi Road, to save a dog, hit a
tree and died. His wife and children—the appellants herein
filed a claim petition under Section 163-A of the Act, 1988
before the Claims Tribunal against the Insurance Company
claiming compensation in the sum of Rs. 10 lakhs. The
Insurance Company filed the written statement and a plea
was raised that the claim petition was not competent
because the deceased was not a third party being the driver
and owner of the vehicle and under the Act, 1988 and
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terms of the policy of the insurance, the Insurance Company
is only required to indemnify the owner in case of third party
loss.
3. The Claims Tribunal heard the parties on the
question of maintainability of the claim petition and by its
order dated August 7, 2001 held that the claim petition was
maintainable.
4. Being not satisfied with the order dated August 7,
2001 passed by the Claims Tribunal, the Insurance
Company preferred revision petition before the High Court.
The High Court set aside the order of the Claims Tribunal
and held that claim petition was not maintainable.
5. The case of the claimants appears to be that
additional premium was paid by the insured to cover the risk
of the driver of the vehicle and in the policy issued by the
Insurance Company, in para 5, persons or classes of
persons entitled to drive includes the insured and
accordingly the Insurance Company is liable. On the other
hand, the Insurance Company has denied its liability
principally on the ground that deceased being owner of the
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vehicle is not a ‘third party’. Section 166 of the Act, 1988
provides that an application for compensation arising out of
an accident of the nature specified in Section 165(1) may be
made, inter alia, by all or any of the legal representatives of
the deceased where death has resulted from the accident.
Section 169 makes a provision that the Claims Tribunal shall
follow the summary procedure subject to any rules that may
be made in this behalf. The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is
not applicable to the proceedings before the Claims Tribunal
except to the extent provided in sub-section (2) of Section
169 and the rules. The whole object of summary procedure
is to ensure that claim application is heard and decided by
the Claims Tribunal expeditiously. The inquiry under Section
168 and the summary procedure that the Claims Tribunal
has to follow do not contemplate the controversy arising out
of claim application being decided in piecemeal. The Claims
Tribunal is required to dispose of all issues one way or the
other in one go while deciding the claim application. The
objection raised by the Insurance Company about
maintainability of claim petition is intricately connected with
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its liability which in the facts and circumstances of the case
is dependent on determination of the effect of the additional
premium paid by the insured to cover the risk of the driver
and other terms of the policy including terms of the policy
contained in para 5. Since all issues (points for
determination) are required to be considered by the Claims
Tribunal together in light of the evidence that may be let in
by the parties and not in piecemeal, we do not think it proper
to consider the rival contentions on merits at this stage.
Suffice it to say that matter needs to be sent back to the
Claims Tribunal.
6. The appeal is partly allowed. The order dated
October 1, 2002 passed by the High Court as well as the
order dated August 7, 2001 passed by the Motor Accident
Claims Tribunal, Gurgaon are set aside. The claim petition
shall be decided by the Claims Tribunal after hearing the
parties in accordance with law, if not decided so far pursuant
to the interim order dated March 29, 2004 passed by this
Court. In case the inquiry has been concluded during the
pendency of this appeal, the Claims Tribunal may make the
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award now. It will be open to the aggrieved party to
challenge such award in a statutory appeal. No order as to
costs.
………………
…. J.
(Aftab Alam)
..………………
… J.
(R.M. Lodha)
New Delhi,
August 3, 2010.
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