In May 1992, a private bus driver, operating in the Virudhunagar district (the hub of the firecracker industry) in Tamil Nadu ferried some passengers who were carrying unlicensed explosives. The bus caught on fire leading to over 30 deaths, including that of the driver.
Years later, the driver’s legal heirs went on to file for compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988. Since the bus was insured, the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal termed the tragic incident an ‘act of god’ and directed the insurance company to pay ₹1,32,800 along with interest at the rate of 7.5% per annum.
However, this decision was appealed by the insurance company. They claimed that the accident happened because the driver and bus conductor permitted passengers to carry unlicensed explosives on the bus. They further stated that redressal in this case can only be claimed under the Workmen’s Compensation Act and not the Motor Vehicles Act.
The Madras High court listened to the insurance company’s appeal on October 8, 2021 and agreed that the claim cannot be made under the Motor Vehicles Act, and that remedy can only be awarded under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
The Workmen’s Compensation Act was passed in 1923 to provide legal redressal and compensation to employees in the event of serious injury or death during a workplace accident. This Act holds the employer liable to pay damages to the employee or their next of kin. It is mandatory for some businesses to have this policy.
In the case at hand, the High Court also observed that the meagre compensation of ₹132,800 awarded by the tribunal had already been paid by the insurance company and all other claims had been processed. So, the court upheld the tribunal’s decision, adding that the claimants need not file a fresh claim under the proper Act. The claim was subsequently converted to one made under the Workmen’s Compensation Act and the family got to keep the sum awarded to them.
And so, nearly 30 years after the driver’s death, his death claim was finally brought out of legal contention and his case was closed.
Third party Motor Insurance is a legal requirement for all vehicles in India. Learn about other mandatory Insurance policies