An insurance company is liable to pay compensation to the accident victim's kin even if the driving licence of the offending vehicle's driver has expired and not renewed, as an expired licence would not make him an unskilled driver, the Bombay high court has said.
A single bench of Justice S G Dige, in an order passed in April a copy of which was made available on Thursday, directed ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co Ltd to pay compensation to the family of a woman who lost her life in an accident in November 2011.
The court said the insurance company could recover the compensation amount from the owner of the offending vehicle later.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the family members of the deceased woman challenging an order passed by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal exonerating the insurance company from paying compensation as the driving licence of the driver of the offending vehicle had expired.
The tribunal had directed the truck owner to pay the compensation.
The woman, Asha Baviskar, was travelling towards Hadapsar in Pune in November 2011 and was riding pillion on the motorcycle when a truck rammed into it at high speed. Baviskar fell under the truck and died.
The bench in its order noted that the deceased died after the truck rammed into her scooter and at the time of the incident the truck was insured with the insurance company. Hence there was a contractual liability of the insurance company to indemnify the compensation, the court added.
"Driving licence of the driver of the offending vehicle was not renewed at the time of the accident. It does not mean that he was not a skilled driver," the HC said.
It added that it is a well-settled principle of law that if the driver of the offending vehicle was not holding an effective and valid driving licence at the time of the incident, the insurance company has to pay compensation first and later recover it from the owner of the vehicle.
The high court said the tribunal has not considered this and passed its order rejecting the claim mechanically.
The court directed the insurance company to pay compensation to the deceased person's family within a period of six weeks and recover it from the owner of the vehicle.
The insurance company had opposed the plea claiming that the petitioner claimants are only entitled for compensation and they are not supposed to see from whose pocket they are getting the compensation.