Passing orders on a plea moved by an insurance company challenging the tribunal’s verdict granting compensation while the insurer merely had a personal accident coverage, Justice SM Subramaniam pointed out that there was a difference between a Motor Vehicle Policy and Personal Accident Coverage Policy. “While the former is strictly within the ambit of the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, the latter is in accordance with the terms and conditions agreed between the parties.” Also noting that the word “compensation” adopted under the Motor Vehicle Policy cannot be equated with the “benefit” to be granted under the Personal Accident Policy, Justice Subramaniam in his order held that the contractual liability or obligations cannot be adjudicated by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act. “In such an event, the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal is usurping the powers of the competent Civil Court, which is impermissible.”
He further held that if the injuries were within the scope of the agreement, then alone the person covered under the Personal Accident Cover was entitled to get compensation. “Only the statutory liability is amenable to the jurisdiction of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal and not the contractual liability. All such contractual liabilities are falling within the scope of the Indian Contract Act and the aggrieved persons to the contract can approach the competent court of law and not the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal under the Motor Vehicles Act,” Justice Subramaniam said while directing the return of the compensation awarded by the tribunal.
The plea related to the award of compensation under the personal accident coverage policy for an owner-cum-driver. It was contended that the policy was also to be considered as Motor Transport Policy and hence the tribunal was competent to adjudicate the claim petition and grant compensation to the victim.