(Prayer: Appeal filed under Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 against the judgment and decree in M.C.O.P.No.376 of 2012, dated 17.09.2014, on the file of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Subordinate Court, Mannargudi.)
(The case has been heard through video conference)
1. This Civil Miscellaneous Appeal is preferred by the Insurance Company-appellant alleging that the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal (Subordinate Court), Mannargudi has erred in holding the appellant is liable in respect of the fatal death of Savarimuthu in the accident while travelling as a passenger in a goods vehicle.
2. On 11.07.2012 while Savarimuthu was travelling in a van bearing Reg.No.TN-50-V-4407 as a loadman, the van capsized due to rash and negligent driving of the van Driver. The deceased Savarimuthu, who sustained grievous injury was taken to the Government Hospital, Mannargudi, then, shifted to Thanjavur Medical College Hospital, Thanjavur. He succumbed due to the injury on the same day. His wife, mother and children have laid a claim petition against the Insurance Company and the Owner of the vehicle seeking Rs.10,00,000/- as compensation. In the claim petition, it was averred that the deceased Savarimuthu was earning a sum of Rs.8,000/- per month as a loadman. At the time of death, he was 45 years old taking care of his mother, wife and two children. The accident was caused due to rash and negligent driving of the van driver bearing van Reg.No.TN-50-V-4407. Hence, they are entitled for compensation.
3. The Insurance Company/Appellant herein had filed a counter denying their liability. They denied that the driver of the vehicle had no valid license and the deceased Savarimuthu was a gratuitous passenger, who accompanied the Driver contrary to the terms and conditions of the Insurance Policy. The vehicle is meant for transporting goods and not for passengers. The deceased Savarimuthu was travelling in the vehicle unauthorisedly. The averments made in the petition that the deceased Savarimuthu was travelling as a loadman in the vehicle at the time of accident, is denied. The alleged income of the deceased Rs.8,000/- per month, is also denied.
4. The Tribunal, based on the pleadings had formulated the following points for consideration:-
(1) Whether the accident was caused by the rash and negligent driving of the driver of the vehicle having Reg.No.TN-50-V-4407?
(2) Whether the respondents are liable to pay the compensation?
(3) What is the quantum of the compensation?
5. On considering the ocular evidence of PW-1, PW-2 and four Exhibits marked on behalf of claimants and the ocular evidence of RW1 and RW-2 and three Exhibits marked in support of the respondents, the Tribunal held that the deceased Savarimuthu was travelling in the vehicle as a loadman and the Insurance Policy covers loadman and therefore, his dependants are entitled for compensation. Taking into consideration of the age and presumptive income of the deceased at the rate of Rs.4,500/- per month, the Tribunal has applied multiplier “13” as per Sarala Verma decision and awarded Rs.5,26,500/- after deducting 1/4th towards his personal expenditure. In addition, Rs.1,00,000/- towards loss of consortium; Rs.1,00,000/- towards loss of love and affection; and Rs.25,000/- towards funeral and transport expenses were awarded making the total compensation of Rs.9,01,500/-.
6. The present appeal is preferred on the ground that the claimants failed to establish by reliable evidence that the deceased was accompanying the goods as loadman and the award of compensation under various conventional heads are disproportionate.
7. Reiterating the grounds of appeal, the learned counsel appearing for the appellant/Insurance Company would submit that gratuitous passenger travelling in a goods vehicle is not entitled for compensation, since it is in violation of terms and conditions of the insurance policy as well as license granted for goods vehicle. Whereas, the learned counsel appearing for the respondents/claimants would submit that the deceased Savarimuthu was engaged as a loadman in the van and the First Information Report regarding the accident is the contemporaneous document in which Savarimuthu is mentioned as a loadman.
8. The learned counsel appearing for the respondents/claimants referring Ex.R2 (Insurance Policy) would submit that the deceased Savarimuthu was not a gratuitous passenger but loadman of the vehicle engaged for the purpose of loading and unloading while transporting the goods in the vehicle. The terms under IMT 17, which form part of the Insurance Policy covers paid Driver, Cleaners and Conductors. The loadman being directly connected with the vehicle insured, the insurance company cannot deny their liability and deprive the lawful just claim of the respondents.
9. On perusal of Ex.R2, the insurance policy package includes IMT 17 which covers to paid Drivers, Cleaners and Conductors. The RC book of the vehicle which is marked as Ex.R1 indicates that the light goods vehicle is permitted to carry three persons. In the Motor Vehicle Inspector Report marked as Ex.P3, the Driving License Number of the Driver P.Prasath, S/o Packirisamy is mentioned along with Badge Number and the same was valid and in force at the time of accident.
10. As pointed out by the learned counsel appearing for the respondents/claimants, the deceased Savarimuthu is mentioned as loadman in the First Information Report, which is marked as Ex.P1. The witnesses on behalf of the claimants have reiterated and supported the case of the claimants to the effect that Savarimuthu was working as a loadman, earning Rs.8,000/- per month. The Tribunal has accepted the avocation of Savarimuthu, but had some reservation regarding his alleged income of Rs.8,000/- per month. Hence, the Tribunal has fixed the income of Savarimuthu at the rate of Rs.4,500/- per month which is just and reasonable.
11. The learned counsel appearing for the appellant submitted that apart from the deceased Savarimuthu, they were few others travelling in the vehicle and therefore, permitting more than 3 persons in the goods vehicle itself amounts to violation of terms of the insurance policy. In this regard, it is relevant to refer the evidence of RW-2 (S.Srinivasan)Administrative Officer of the Insurance Company, who admits in his cross-examination that loadmen are permitted to travel in the goods vehicle and for the said purpose, additional premium has been collected from the vehicle owner under Ex.R2 and except the present claim, no other loadman has preferred claim petition arising out of this accident.
12. Therefore, this Court is of the view that having collected additional premium for the persons commensurating to the seating capacity of the vehicle viz., three persons and the claimant having proved that the deceased was not a gratuitous passenger but loadman engaged in connection with the vehicle, the insurance company cannot deny or deprive the claim.
13. Regarding the quantum fixed by the Tribunal, taking into account the income, likelihood of personal expenditure, age, multiplicant, loss of consortium, and loss of love and affection, has awarded Rs.9,01,500/-, which is just and fair. So, needs no interference. Hence, this Civil Miscellaneous Appeal is liable to be dismissed.
14. As a result, the Civil Miscellaneous Appeal is dismissed. The award of the Tribunal viz., Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal
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(Subordinate Court), Mannargudi made in M.C.O.P.No.376 of 2012, dated 17.09.2014 is hereby confirmed. No costs. 15. The learned counsel appearing for the respondents/claimants would submit that the appellant has deposited a sum of Rs.8,01,500/-, pursuant to the interim order passed by this Court, while granting stay and they are liable to deposit the balance amount with interest. 16. Accordingly, the appellant/Insurance Company is directed to deposit the balance amount of the award money along with interest to the credit of M.C.O.P.No.376 of 2012 on the file of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Subordinate Court, Mannargudi, within a period of eight weeks from today. On such deposit, the claimants are at liberty to withdraw the same as per the award. Consequently, connected Miscellaneous Petition is closed.