Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Owner liable if minor is involved in accident: Supreme Court

The owner of a vehicle is liable to pay compensation for the accident if the vehicle is driven by a minor, the Supreme Court has ruled, upholding the compensation of over Rs eight lakh to the family of a man who died in a road mishap.
The apex court said it was the duty of the vehicle-owner to ensure that it was not misused or used in contravention of the rules.
A bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph rejected the plea of the owner Jawahar Singh that his minor nephew had taken away the key of the motorcycle without his knowledge and as such he cannot be held responsible.
“We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that it was Jatin, who came on the motorcycle and hit the scooter of the deceased from behind. The responsibility of causing the accident was, therefore, found to be solely that of Jatin.
Observing that the accident was solely caused by the minor, Justice Kabir writing the judgement said, “it was the responsibility of the petitioner to ensure that his motorcycle was not misused and that too by a minor who had no licence to drive the same, the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal quite rightly saddled the liability for payment of compensation on the petitioner.”
The apex court passed the judgement while dismissing the appeal filed by Mr. Singh who challenged the compensation awarded to the deceased’s family, for which he was held liable under “contributory negligence.”
The accident had occurred on 18th July, 2004, when a motorcycle, driven by a boy rammed into a scooter driven by Mukesh Jain, who was accompanied by his son, Shashank Jain, in the pillion near SDM’s Office, Geeta Colony, Delhi.
The Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal at Karkardooma awarded the deceased family a compensation of Rs 8,35,067 — along with 7 per cent interest.
The insurer National Insurance Company Ltd was held liable to pay the award and to recover the amount from the owner of the motorcycle Jawahar Singh.
The High Court held that the driver who caused the accident was a minor on the date of the accident and was riding the motorcycle in violation of the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and the Rules framed thereunder. Aggrieved, Mr. Singh had appealed in the apex court.
The apex court agreed with the insurance company’s view that at the time of the accident, the motorcycle was being driven in breach of the terms and conditions of the insurance policy.
The apex court said the question has been duly considered by the Tribunal and was correctly decided. The High Court rightly chose not to interfere with the same.

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