Beli Ram v. Rajinder Kumar & anr.
CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 7220-7221 OF 2011 decided on September 23, 2020
Bench: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari JJ.
The present appeal was filed by one Beli Ram, owner of a truck company, who employed Rajinder Kumar as driver. The driver met with an accident while driving the truck owned by Beli Ram. The driver filed petition under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923. The commissioner passed an award directing the insurance company to pay the damages and Beli Ram was directed to pay the interest. Aggrieved by this, the insurance company filed an appeal in High Court. The High Court absolved the insurance company of any liability on account of there being a material breach of the insurance policy as the driver’s driving license had expired at the relevant time. Aggrieved by such order, Beli Ram appealed to the Supreme Court against the order passed by High Court.
Question of Law:
Whether in case if the driving license has expired, the insurance company is absolved of its liability?
The Supreme Court after analyzing various precedents on the subject matter held that liability for compensation cannot be fastened on an insurance company when the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident does not have a valid driving license. The Supreme Court observed that when an employer employs a driver, he has to take reasonable care to see that his employee gets his license renewed within time. The court held that, when the driver did not renew his license, the insurance employee cannot be held liable unless the owner proved that he had either checked the driving license or had given instructions to his driver to get his driving license renewed on expiry and dismissed the appeal.
Important precedents used:
1. National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Swaran Singh and Ors, (2004) 3 SCC 297
2. Nirmala Kothari v. United India Insurance Company Limited, (2020) 4 SCC 49.