Owner liable if minor is involved in accident: SC

The owner of a vehicle is liable to pay compensation for the accident if the vehicle is driven by a minor, the SC has ruled, upholding the compensation of over Rs eight lakh to the family of a man who died in a road mishap.

Updated: May 17, 2011, 19:53 PM IST

New Delhi: The owner of a vehicle is liable
to pay compensation for the accident if the vehicle is driven
by a minor, the Supreme Court has ruled, upholding the
compensation of over Rs eight lakh to the family of a man who
died in a road mishap.

The apex court said it was the duty of the vehicle-owner
to ensure that it was not misused or used in contravention of
the rules.
A bench of justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph
rejected the plea of the owner Jawahar Singh that the minor
Jatin, who is his nephew, had taken away the key of the
motorcycle without his knowledge and as such he cannot be
held responsible.

"We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that it was Jatin,
who came on the motorcycle and hit the scooter of the deceased
from behind. The responsibility of causing the accident was,
therefore, found to be solely that of Jatin.

"However, since Jatin was a minor and it was the
responsibility of the petitioner to ensure that his motorcycle
was not misused and that too by a minor who had no licence to
drive the same, the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal quite
rightly saddled the liability for payment of compensation on
the petitioner," Justice Kabir writing the judgement said.

The apex court passed the judgement while dismissing the
appeal filed by Singh who challenged the compensation awarded
to the deceased`s family, for which he was held liable under
"contributory negligence."
The accident had occured on 18th July, 2004, when a
motorcycle, driven by Jatin rammed into a scooter driven by
Mukesh Jain, who was accompanied by his son, Shashank Jain, in
the pillion near SDM?s Office, Geeta Colony, Delhi.

The Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal at Karkardooma
awarded the deceased family a compensation of Rs 8,35,067/-
along with 7 per cent interest.

The insurer National Insurance Company Ltd was held
liable to pay the award and to recover the amount from the
owner of the motorcycle Jawahar Singh.

Singh challenged the direction in the Delhi High Court on
the ground that the accident occured due to Jatin. He further
claimed that the deceased was also responsible for the
accident.

The High Court held that Jatin was a minor on the date
of the accident and was riding the motorcycle in violation of
the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and the Rules
framed thereunder.

Aggrieved, Singh had appealed in the apex court.

The apex court agreed with the insurance company`s view
that at the time of the accident, the motorcycle was being
driven in breach of the terms and conditions of the insurance
policy.

The apex court said "this is not a case for interference
in view of the fact that admittedly the motorcycle belonging
to the petitioner was being driven by Jatin, who had no
licence to drive the same and was, in fact, a minor on the
date of the accident".

The apex court said the question has been duly
considered by the Tribunal and was correctly decided. The High
Court rightly chose not to interfere with the same.

"Without going into the merits of the case, we are of the
view that the story of Jatin walking into the house of the
petitioner and taking the keys of the motorcycle without any
intimation to the petitioner appears to be highly improbable
and far-fetched.

"It is difficult to accept the defence of the petitioner
that the keys of the motorcycle were taken by Jatin without
his knowledge", the apex court said.

PTI