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Vehicle owner liable to pay compensation for accident caused by minor, not insurance company: High Court of Karnataka

It is the owner of the motor vehicle who is liable to pay compensation to the plaintiff for a road accident caused by the vehicle driven by a minor and the insurer cannot even be directed to “pay the amount and recover the same from the owner of the vehicle” in such cases, the Karnataka High Court has held.

The court also stated that the “pay and recover” principle cannot apply when a minor is driving the vehicle because it is not subject to the provisions of Art. 149 section 2(ii) of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988, which deals with this case of an insured vehicle being driven by a person who did not have the appropriate qualifications or was disqualified by reason of holding a driving license while disqualified from driving in breach of the law.

A minor boy of 16 years of age cannot be included in the category of “persons without appropriate authorizations” in accordance with Art. 149 section 2(ii) of the MV Act as he is not even qualified to apply for a driving license and, therefore, no liability imposed on the insurance company can be incurred, the court said.

Justice Hanchate Sanjeevkumar passed the order allowing an appeal filed by New India Assurance Co. Ltd., Kundapur in Udupi District.

The insurance company had challenged the Kundapur Motor Accident Claims Tribunal’s 2014 order directing the company to pay ₹2.56 lakh as compensation to the plaintiff.

In 2008, a 16-year-old boy, who was driving a two-wheeler belonging to a person he knew, rammed the vehicle into a 61-year-old pedestrian in Bhatkal town of Uttara Kannada district, resulting in the pedestrian’s death. The victim’s legal heirs demanded compensation from the insurance company and the vehicle owner.

Meanwhile, after reassessing the compensation, the High Court ordered the owner of the vehicle, Mohammed Mustafa of Bhatkal, to pay compensation of ₹4.44 lakh to the legal heirs of the victim.

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