The Delhi High Court has reiterated that if the offending vehicle was stolen at the time of the accident, neither the owner nor the Insurance Company can be made liable to pay the compensation.

In that context, the Bench of Justice Navin Chawla observed that, "if the Offending Vehicle was indeed stolen at the time of the accident, neither the owner nor the Insurance Company can be made liable to pay the compensation."

Counsel Brijesh Bagga appeared for the appellant, while Counsel Anshuman Bal, along with others, appeared for the respondents.

In this case, the appeals contested awards of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal regarding a fatal accident.

The petitions sought compensation for deaths in the same incident. IFFCO Tokio General Insurance Company Limited and the car owner filed separate appeals, along with Sumit, alleged as the driver. The accident occurred in 2014, involving Sumit's reckless driving, resulting in fatalities. The Tribunal held Sumit liable due to the absence of a valid driving license, awarding compensations.

During the proceedings, the counsel for the Insurance Company argued that the two claim petitions arose from the same accident, questioning the rash and negligent driving by Sumit. It was asserted that the Tribunal should have consolidated the petitions and emphasized discrepancies in the claimants' evidence.

The Insurance Company's counsel highlighted Sudhir's statement, stating that if accepted, it would disprove the claims. They also contended that the Offending Vehicle had a fake number plate, and its occupants were illegal, challenging the right to compensation. The owner's counsel supported these arguments, criticizing adverse inferences.

The High Courtstressed the powers granted to the Motor Vehicles Tribunal under Section 169 of the Motor Vehicles Act, through which it can seek assistance in holding inquiry, enforce the attendance of witnesses and compel the discovery and production of documents and material objects. In that context, it was said that, "Under Section 169 of the Act, the learned Tribunal can even seek assistance in holding the inquiry. It also has the power to enforce the attendance of witnesses, compelling the discovery, and production of documents and material objects."

The High Court noted that the Tribunal had made no effort to find out the truth on how and why the Offending Vehicle bearing a fake number plate at the time of the accident, and it did not summon any police official nor inquire from the police of its investigation into this aspect. With that background, it was observed that, "The learned Tribunal failed to exercise the jurisdiction vested in it by the Act, and did not conduct a proper inquiry, rather chose to proceed on the basis of conjectures and surmises, which cannot be sustained... the learned Tribunal proceeded on the basis that a charge-sheet already stands filed, though, this was incorrect. The charge-sheet had not been filed till the passing of the Impugned Award. This is a factual error that the learned Tribunal committed in its Impugned Award(s)."

Subsequently, the impugned awards were set aside, and the Claim Petition were remanded back to the Tribunal to hold further inquiry.

Cause Title: IFFCO Tokio General Insurance Co. Ltd. vs Sajjanpati @ Sajna & Ors.

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