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Karnataka HC Allows Claim Petition And Made Insurance Company Liable To Indemnify The Deceased Family

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The appeal was filed under section 173(1) of motor vehicle Act against the judgment and award passed by the additional district and sessions Judge, Doddaballapura, Bengaluru Rural district, partly allowing the claim petition for compensation and seeking enhancement of compensation.

Brief facts of the case

Govindappa aged about 55 years was travelling as a coolie to Rayarapalya in a lorry for loading of wooden poles when the driver of the lorry took a turn at a high speed, Govindappa fell down from the truck and as a result of which, he sustained grievous injuries and ultimately dead. It was stated that the lorry belonged to respondent no.2/ Suresh B.C was paying the deceased Rs.10, 000/- per month as a salary.

The said claim petition before the tribunal was resisted by the Insurance Company. As usual, it denied all the averments. It also put forth the plea that Govindappa was standing in the carriage of the lorry and was not proceeding as a coolie. It was contended that he was a gratuitous passenger travelling in the rear of the lorry and when the lorry took a sudden turn, Govindappa, who was standing in the extreme rear of the lorry, fell down. It was contended that the policy issued by it did not cover the risk of it and therefore, it was not liable to indemnify the 2nd respondent – owner.

Being dissatisfied with the award of compensation of Rs.5,52,000/- for the death of Govindappa and challenging the exoneration of liability of the Insurance Company, the claimants have filed the appeal before the high court of Karnataka.

Court’s observation

“The contention of the learned counsel for the Insurance Company that since the vehicle in question was a goods vehicle, no person could have been carried in the said vehicle and if any such person was carried, their liability would not arise, is incorrect. Even according to the package policy, carrying capacity of persons in the vehicle including the driver was stated to be three persons.

A complete reading of Rule 100 of the Karnataka motor vehicle Rules 1989 indicates that notwithstanding the general dictum of not allowing carriage of persons in a goods vehicle, the law does permit a number of people to be carried in a goods vehicle. Sub-rules (2) to (4) indicate that the persons so carried can actually be carried in the goods vehicle. A goods vehicle by its very definition does not have a permit of carrying passengers. This would obviously mean that the persons to be carried would be in the area where the goods are to be stored. In other words, the Rule itself provides for the carriage of passengers in the area reserved for carrying goods, under special conditions, depending on the weight of the vehicle and as a matter of right, the owner or the hirer or the bonafide employee of the owner or the hirer can travel in a goods vehicle. It, therefore, follows that if an employee of the owner of the vehicle is being carried in a goods vehicle, it cannot be illegal and such a person cannot be construed as a gratuitous passenger.

Since in the State of Karnataka, Rule 100 of the Karnataka motor vehicle Rules 1989 provides for the carriage of passengers even in a goods vehicle, the Insurance Company would have to cover the liability in respect of those persons who were permitted to be carried in the goods vehicle. Since there is no absolute bar in Karnataka for the carriage of passengers in a goods vehicle, the court held that the Insurance Company would be liable to satisfy the liability in this case.

Court’s Decision

“The Tribunal has determined the monthly income of the deceased at Rs.6, 000/- per month since there was no credible evidence to establish the actual income of the deceased. In such a situation, the notional income of Rs.8,500/- as determined by the Karnataka Legal Services Authority for the motor vehicle accident victims of the year 2014 would have to be adopted. Since it is a case of death, the future prospects of 10% would be required to be added to the monthly income, which makes the monthly income of the deceased to Rs.9,350/-. Out of which, 1/3rd is required to be deducted towards his personal expenses, which in turn makes his monthly income to Rs.6,234/-. Having regard to the age of the deceased i.e., 55 years, the multiplier of 11 is required to be adopted. Thus, the claimants would be entitled to loss of dependency at Rs.8, 22,888/- (6234 X 12 X 11).

The 1st claimant/ wife of the deceased being the widow, she alone would be entitled for loss of consortium in a sum of Rs.44, 000/- and a further sum of Rs.33, 000/- is also awarded under conventional heads.

In the result, the appeal is allowed in part. The claimants are held entitled to compensation of Rs.8, 99,888/-. The enhanced compensation shall carry interest at 6 % p.a.

The Insurance Company is directed to deposit the amount within six weeks from the date of receipt of a certified copy of this judgment”

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