Dr. Eurico Da Silva, President:
1. The complainants who were the owners of a Tata Sierra A/C Car, bearing registration No. GA-01/C-5003, insured with the opposite parties has lodged this complaint alleging deficiency in service due to the fact that the claim filed by them on 4.5.1998 in connection with an accident occurred on 1.5.1998, at Sanvordem, was negatived. It is the complainants’ case that the accident was intimated to the opposite parties by their letter dated 4.5.1998 and the same was reported to the Curchorem Police Station on the same day after which the Police conducted the Panchanama. Subsequently the complainant filed their claim for damages amounting to Rs. 5,95,860/-. By letter, dated 13.5.1998, the opposite parties informed the complainants that they were calling a Senior Surveyor to make a proper assessment of the extent of loss and requested them to give a detailed description of the accident. The complainants stated that this request was unwarranted and uncalled for, amounting to an act of harassment, since all the details had been recorded by the Police in their Panchanama. Subsequently by another letter, dated 28.5.1999, the opposite parties informed the complainants that damages of the vehicle were not caused by the accident on 1.5.1998 and instead were atleast six months old and, therefore, sought more informations/clarifications. Thereupon despite of numerous requests, the opposite parties failed to settle the claim and went on raising excuses to avoid the payment of compensation. The complainants even sent a legal notice through their lawyer, dated 22.7.1998, calling upon the opposite parties to settle the claim within one week. The opposite parties received the Notice but refused to oblige. The complainants again sent another Notice, dated 29.7.1998, requesting the opposite parties to furnish to them a certified copy of the preliminary and final Survey Report. However, though the opposite parties received the Notice, they again failed and neglected to settle their claim.
2. The opposite parties, in their written statement raised a preliminary objection with regard to the very maintainability of the complaint and on merits contended that the same was false and frivolous. According to them, the vehicle do not met with any accident on 1.5.1998 and the alleged damages to the vehicle were caused in a prior accident which occurred on 12.10.1997, at Caranzalem. At that time the vehicle was under the third party insurance policy with New India Assurance Company Ltd. and the complainants did not made any claim for damages. The vehicle was badly damaged resulting in total loss. Therefore, it was kept without being repaired so as to make the claim later on, after obtaining a comprehensive policy for the vehicle. Accordingly, in December, 97, Shri Surendra Furtado trickly transferred the Third Party insurance policy and the Registration Certificate of the vehicle in the name of Alcina Packers which is a proprietory concern of Mr. Surendra Furtado himself. The transfer of Registration Certificate was with a ulterior motive of getting easily a comprehensive insurance policy for the damaged vehicle in the name of Alcina Packers and then to make a claim for damages of the vehicle in an accident occurred on 12.10.1997, at Caranzalem. After the expiry of the third party policy with the New India Assurance Company Ltd. on 4.2.1998, the complainants approached the opposite parties with an insurance proposal for a comprehensive insurance policy for the damaged vehicle GA-01-5003 in the name of Alcina Packers. As the complainants did not produce the previous insurance policy of the vehicle, the Development Officer of the opposite parties went to inspect the vehicle at a Service Station at Fatorda, Margao, where the vehicle was being serviced on a jack lifted up. There the complainants produced a fresh Registration Certificate of the vehicle from R.T.O., Margao, showing the name of Alcina Packers as its original, owner right from the date of its registration on 31.1.1996, without any indication on the Registration Certificate that the vehicle was once owned by Surendra Furtado and thereafter the same was transferred in the name of Alcina Packers with effect from 18.12.1997. The Development Officer being satisfied with the good condition of the vehicle certified the same for acceptance of the insurance proposal without suspecting that the complainants had played a fraud by showing a different Tata Sierra vehicle with the same number plate of the damaged vehicle No. GA-01-C-5003 on it. Thus the complainants obtained a comprehensive insurance policy from the opposite parties by fraudulent misrepresentation. After the accident was intimated to the opposite parties, Shri Y.S. Kamat was deputed for a preliminary inspection of the damaged vehicle and he has filed his report on 25.5.1998, opining that part portion of the vehicle were found badly rusted and oxidised which shows that the accident might have taken place 5 to 6 months prior to that. Thereafter, another Surveyor Shri M.P. Vernekar was deputed for inspection and he also submitted his report on 29.5.1998 confirming the findings of Kamat. He has reported that he saw the suit vehicle in the same damaged condition lying near Panaji Police Station in October, 1997. The opposite parties state that, after the earlier accident on 1.5.1998, the complainants in connivance with the Curchorem Police Station managed to draw a fake Panchanama of the purported accident which was conducted at mid-night with Panchas brought from Margao, a place 45 kms. away from the place of accident. Thereupon the investigation was not properly conducted and the Supdt. of Police South, on his letter dated 27.7.1998, admitted that it was doubtful as to whether the accident was a reality or a stage-managed one. The opposite parties, thus, stated that the claim was bogus and it was, therefore, rightly disallowed.
3. We have heard learned Counsel and perused the records. The main grievance of the complainants is the refusal on the part of the opposite parties in entertaining their claim for compensation in respect of the severe damages, almost nearing to the total loss, of their vehicle No. GA-01-C-5003 in an accident purportedly occurred at Sanvordem, on 1.5.1998. It is the case of the opposite parties that no accident involving the complainants’ vehicle took place on 1.5.1998, as it was falsely pleaded by them, being the whole story about the mishap a pure invention in complicity with the Police personnel of the Curchorem Police Station and some other persons, including the Pandurang Rao, the alleged driver who was apparently plying the vehicle when the mishap is supposed to have happened, after which he reported the matter to the Police and never again bothered to assist the Investigating Agency thus disappearing from the scene.
4. In support of their case regarding the occurrence of the accident on 1.5.1998, the complainants have initially relied, among several other documents, on the Panchanama, dated 1.5.1998, conducted by the police at the scene of offence and the copy of the vehicle’s estimate of repairs, dated 4.5.1998, prepared by M/s. N.D. Naik but, subsequently, at the stage of filing of their affidavits in evidence, produced fresh documents, namely, the estimate and the Bill regarding the cost of repairs of the vehicle undertaken at Sai Auto Service Garage at Belgaum wherein the repairs of the complainants’ vehicle were allegedly carried on immediately after the accident which was met by the same vehicle on 12.10.1996, alongwith the affidavit of its owner Santosh S.S.
5. We are, however, unable to accept this kind of evidence as conclusive and sufficient to make out a case for the complainants. Indeed, the letter dated 27.7.1998 of the Supdt. of Police, Margao, in reply to the opposite parties’ letter dated 1.6.1998, seeking some clarifications regarding the investigation made by the Police in respect of the accident Case No. 36/98, purportedly involving the suit vehicle, is self-speaking and impressive leaving us in real doubt about the very occurrence of the accident which was reported at Curchorem Police Station by the driver Pandurang Rao as having taken place at 8.30 p.m. and the fraudulent nature of the claim which refers to the same accident as occurred at 4.30 p.m., consequent upon the vehicle having just slipped from the road. The same letter makes it clear that from the report of the Investigating Officer and on the verification of the case papers it was difficult to ascertain whether the accident was a reality or a stage-managed one, as since it was late night and in an isolated place no eye-witnesses were available. The letter further recorded that an attempt to interrogate the driver was made by detailing policeman at the given address but he was not found nor anyone knew him. Further, the complicity of the policeman who has conducted the Panchanama of the scene of offence in a far distance place of Sanvordem at midnight of the same day, by availing of two Panchas who have been called from Margao, cannot also be ruled out in order to help the complainants to fabricate a bogus case of accidental damages in a mishap wherein, admittedly, there has been no loss of life to justify such an urgency and alacrity of the Investigating Agency in holding such Panchanama at that odd hours of night. This very fact coupled with the refusal of the complainants to supply details of the accident which were sought for by the opposite parties by their letters dated 13.5.1998 and 28.5.1998, bearing in mind that the cause of the accident, criptically given by the complainants as being due to the fact that the vehicle had slipped from the road, conclusively establishes, in our view, that the whole story appears to be a concocted one in order to enable the complainants to justify their claim for damages in respect of a vehicle which had been actually damaged in a previous accident occurred at Caranzalem on 12.10.1997, when the same vehicle was insured with another Insurance Company under a Third Party insurance policy, which could not cover the cost of its extensive and expensive repairs. In this respect, we are not inclined to believe as reliable and genuine evidence, the testimony of Sai Auto Service, Belgaum, sought to be introduced by the complainants at a belated stage when no such mention was even made in their complaint. Besides, this type of evidence raises also in our mind some legitimate suspicion about its genuineness due to the fact that if the vehicle was duly repaired immediately after the first accident there should be no plausible reason for the complainants to change, first of all, the Insurance Company and conceal this circumstance to the opposite parties when, after having secured the duplicate of the Registration Certificate of the same vehicle in the name of its transferee, Alcina Packers, which is eventually a Company belonging to the original owner of the car and whose name was also deleted from the duplicate Registration Certificate, got freshly insured this time by a comprehensive insurance policy under which the claim was ultimately lodged with the opposite parties.
6. On the other hand, we are also satisfied, from the reports of Y.S. Kamat, dated 25.5.199
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8 and Varnekar, dated 29.5.1998, both duly corroborated by their own affidavits as well as by the report of the Private Investigating Agency, dated 16.9.1998, which was also supported by an affidavit sworn by Agnelo Pereira placed on record that, after the first accident the suit vehicle met at Caranzalem on 12.10.1997, the same which was then insured only under a third party policy was kept without being repaired while the affidavit of the Development Officer N.J. Audi strongly suggests that when the complainants’ vehicle No. GA-01-C-5003 was sought to be insured with the opposite parties, the vehicle which was shown to him for inspection was a different vehicle of the same model and colour but bearing a registration plate removed from the accidental vehicle. 7. In the circumstances, we are of the considered opinion that the opposite parties were well within its discretion to refuse to satisfy the false claim of the complainants and, therefore, the stand taken by them in this regard cannot be held as amounting to deficiency in service so as to make them liable to compensate. The result is that the complaint is bound to fail and is hereby dismissed with costs of Rs. 3,000/- in favour of the opposite parties. Order accordingly.