Can a university be regarded as a central government or state government office setting accountability under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988? This matter will be decided by the Supreme Court in a petition lodged by Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU).
Advocates Aniruddha P Mayee and Selvin Raja appeared for HNLU. A bench comprising Justice NV Ramana and Justice Ajay Rastogi said it would hear the matter, and issue a notice to ICICI Lombard Insurance Company. The case concerns the death of a car accident triggered by an HNLU-owned car. One Vineet Shrivastava was struck by HNLU-owned Motor Vehicle Bus. The Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT) ordered compensation of Rs.10,81,700. While passing the prize, the Tribunal collectively and severally placed the vehicle's liability on the driver, the owner (HNLU) and the insurer (ICICI).
ICICI preferred an appeal against the MACT judgement to the Chhattisgarh High Court. The insurance company's appeal was primarily on two grounds. Firstly, the car belonging to HNLU did not have a valid license to function the bus as a passenger carrying vehicle during the incident, and secondly, the driver of the offending car did not have a correct license at the moment of the incident.
It was therefore argued that the insurance firm should be exempt from its responsibility, and the responsibility should have been attached to the vehicle's owner and driver. The question before the High Court was about section 66(3) of the Motor Vehicles Act. As per the said Section, any transportation automobile owned by the central government or state government, and used for government reasons not connected to any company is exempt from the necessity to have a license.
Thus, the issue before the High Court was whether the University can be deemed a State to take advantage of the exemption under section 66(3) of the Motor Vehicles Act. The High Court concluded that under no circumstances can the university be said to be a central government office or, for that matter, the state government nor can it be said that the use of the vehicle is for government purposes when the accident occurred.
On the same basis, the High Court allowed ICICI Lombard's appeal and ordered the insurance company to recover the amount of compensation paid to the claimant from HNLU. HNLU has now appealed this judgment of the High Court to the Supreme Court. The Court noted that a Supreme Court decision squarely states that University as "State." Therefore, the court shall hear the matter, notice of which has been accepted by Lawyer Binay Kumar Das on behalf of the respondent.
Tags : #Legal