S.S. Satheesachandran: President
Complainant is the appellant. His complaint claiming compensation for loss sustained to his motor vehicle from the opposite party, an Insurance Company, after enquiry, was dismissed by the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Thiruvananthapuram (for short, the District Forum). Aggrieved by the order of dismissal, he has filed this appeal.
2. Short facts necessary for disposal of the appeal can be summed up thus :
Complainant was the owner of a mini lorry, Swaraj Mazda bearing Registration No.KL05 2237. That vehicle was covered by a commercial vehicle package insurance policy issued by the opposite party. During the period of such coverage, the vehicle met with an accident in a collision with a KSRTC bus. The mini lorry at the time of accident was driven by one Shri.Mukhadudeen. According to the complainant, the driver had a valid driving licence to drive a transport vehicle. The vehicle was seriously damaged in the accident and the loss was a
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sessed at Rs.3,13,918/-. The insurer’s declared value (IDV) was Rs.1,07,150/- and it was liable to compensate the complainant to that extent. Claim for compensation was raised by complainant, and the licenced assessor deputed by the insurance company assessed the damages and estimated the net loss at Rs.3,96,395/-, fixing the liability of the insurance company at Rs.1,40,743/-. Recommendation of the assessor for payment of compensation as above was turned down by the insurance company holding that the driver who drove the vehicle at the time of accident had only a driving licence for light motor vehicle and autorikshaw and he was not qualified for driving a mini lorry classified as a medium goods vehicle. Since he had no licence to drive a medium goods vehicle, the insurance company repudiated its liability to compensate the complainant. Complainant thereupon filed the complaint claiming compensation from the insurance company.3. The opposite party insurance company, filed a version admitting the policy coverage for vehicle but denied its liability to compensate the appellant contending that the driver had no effective driving licence for a medium goods vehicle.4. The evidence consisted of the testimonies of the complainant as PW1, and, representative of the opposite party as RW-1. An officer of the Road Transport Office from which D-6 was collected, was examined as DW-2. On the side of complainant exhibits P-1 to P-8 and for the opposite party exhibits D-1 to D-9 were marked.5. Appreciating the materials produced and hearing the counsel of both sides, the District Forum, upholding the contention of the insurance company, concluded that the complainant was not entitled to claim compensation for the loss caused to his mini lorry from insurance company since the vehicle at the time of accident was driven by a driver who had licence only to drive a light motor vehicle and not a medium goods vehicle. In that view of the matter, the complaint was dismissed. Hence, this appeal.6. We heard the counsel on both sides and perused the records. The only ground canvassed by the learned counsel for appellant/complainant to assail the order of the lower forum is built upon S.8 of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 1994 by which clauses (e) to (h) of sub-section (2) of S.10 of Motor Vehicles Act 1988 have been substituted with the term “transport vehicle”. Previously, clauses (e) to (h) of S.10 of Motor Vehicles Act covered medium goods vehicle, medium passenger motor vehicle, heavy goods vehicle and heavy passenger transport vehicle, and for all of them, transport vehicle had been substituted under the above amendment act, and, as such, a person having licence to drive transport vehicle is entitled to drive a medium goods vehicle also, is the submission of the learned counsel. Inviting our attention to exhibit P5, copy of the driving licence No.1/9170 of 1993 issued to Shri.Magadhadudeen A., the driver who drove the mini lorry of the complainant involved in the accident, learned counsel contended that that driver had licence to drive transport vehicle during the relevant period. The endorsement made in the driving licence that he had been issued a badge to drive a transport vehicle from 19.11.2005 to 18.11.2012 covering the period of accident was omitted to be taken note of by the lower forum, according to the counsel. Driver was entitled to drive transport vehicle including a mini lorry, a medium goods vehicle, is the submission of the learned counsel contending that the repudiation of the liability covered by the policy by the insurance company is wrong and illegal. The learned counsel also relied upon “Mukund Devangan vs Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. (2017 (3) KLJ 1000)” in support of the submission made that a driver having a licence to drive a light motor vehicle with badge for transport vehicle is entitled to drive a medium goods vehicle also.7. We do not find any merit in the submission made by the counsel for appellant that a driver having licence to drive a light motor vehicle issued with a badge for transport vehicle can drive a medium goods vehicle, heavy goods vehicle etc. Light motor vehicle is defined under S.2(21) of the Motor Vehicles Act thus :“light motor vehicle means a transport vehicle or omnibus the gross weight of either of which or a motor car or tractor or road roller the unladen weight of any of which, does not exceed 7500 kilograms”.8. A person issued with a licence to drive a light motor vehicle can drive transport vehicle of such class without any endorsement to that effect. He cannot drive a medium goods vehicle or a heavy goods vehicle without having a licence to drive such types of vehicles. Decision relied by the counsel was based on a reference involving the question whether a driver having a licence to drive a light motor vehicle and driving transport vehicle of that class is required to obtain an endorsement to drive a transport vehicle. Conflicting decisions thereof have been settled by the apex court in the above case holding that a driver holding licence to drive light motor vehicle can drive transport vehicle of such weight without any endorsement to that effect. Newly incorporated expression transport vehicle in S.10(2)(e)) in substitution of clauses (e) to (h) existing previously in that section gave rise to some doubts whether it was necessary for a driver possessing licence to drive light motor vehicle to obtain an endorsement to drive transport vehicle of that class, and it was resolved by the apex court as indicated earlier. The decision in no way supports the proposition canvassed by the counsel that a driver having licence to drive light motor vehicle is entitled to drive transport vehicles of other class like medium goods vehicle and heavy goods vehicle etc. The apex court has made clear that the expression transport vehicle in S.10(2)(e) would include only the vehicles of the category as defined in S.2(16) heavy goods vehicle, S.2(17) heavy transport motor vehicle and 2(23), medium goods vehicle, and, would not include light motor vehicle which means transport vehicle also of the weight specified in S.2(21). In paragraph 26 of the above decision in answering the reference, the apex court has held that a light motor vehicle includes a transport vehicle also and holder of light motor vehicle licence can drive all the vehicles of the class including transport vehicles and that was the pre-amended position as well as the post amended position. The definition of light motor vehicle defined in S.2(21) of the Act would include a transport vehicle as per the weight prescribed in S.2(21) r/w S.2(15) and 2(48) of the Motor Vehicles Act and such transport vehicles are excluded from the definition by virtue of the Amendment Act No.54 of 1994. Whether a driver having licence to drive a light motor vehicle is required additionally to obtain an endorsement to drive a transport vehicle of that class, that alone, was the question involved in Mukund Devangan’s case and the reliance placed by the counsel for appellant in that decision contending that the person having licence to drive a light motor vehicle is entitled to drive all types of transport vehicles like medium goods vehicle, heavy goods vehicle etc., is totally misplaced and unworthy of any merit.9. Mini lorry, Swaraj Mazda, owned by the appellant and involved in the accident is a medium goods vehicle and it was driven at the time of accident by a driver who possessed only a licence to drive a light motor vehicle. Endorsement in his licence, Exhibit P5, to drive transport vehicle would enable him to drive only transport vehicle of that class i.e. light motor vehicle and not any other type of vehicle. Clearly he was disqualified to drive a medium goods vehicle.10. S.3(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 interdicts a person from driving a transport vehicle unless his driving licence specifically entitles him to do so. Complainant’s driver Magadhadudeen A., who drove the mini lorry, a medium goods vehicle involved in the accident, had only a licence to drive light motor vehicle, enabling him to drive a transport vehicle of that type alone but not of a medium goods vehicle. Insurance company in such circumstances was fully entitled to disown its liability though the loss caused in the accident was covered under the policy issued. P6 policy specifically states that indemnification by the company is subject to the condition that the person driving the vehicle holds an effective driving licence at the time of accident. Effective driving licence has to be understood with reference to the type of vehicle which he is entitled to drive under the licence issued to him. As already stated, a person having licence to drive a light motor vehicle can only drive a transport vehicle of that type and not a medium goods vehicle.11. Dismissal of the complaint by the District Forum disallowing the claim of the complainant against the insurance company for policy violation is fully justified, and appeal is devoid of any merit.Appeal is dismissed with cost quantified at Rs.5000/- (Rupees Five Thousand) only.