The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that if a person sells a car and did not change the ownership details in the registration records, then that person will be liable to pay compensation if the car gets involved in an accident even though someone else drove and owned the car.
What led to the judgement?
This legal truth dawned upon Vijay Kumar who sold his car to another person on July 12, 2007. That person further sold the car to someone else in September 2008. This person further claimed that he sold the car to Meer Singh, according to The Times of India.
While the car was with Meer Singh, another driver got involved in an accident on May 27, 2009, where one person was injured and another killed. The court decided on a compensation of Rs.3.85 lakhs and asked Vijay Kumar, whose name appeared on the registration record as the owner, to pay the compensation along with the driver.
Vijay Kumar challenged this order before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, as reported by The Times of India. The single-judge bench decided that the original owner need not be held responsible for the accident as one of the people admitted to buying the car from him. One of the successive owners, through advocate Rishi Malhotra, challenged the HC judgment in the SC and said the court could not render a decision contrary to law.
Malhotra said Section 2(30) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, provides that the person in whose name a motor vehicle is registered is the owner and, hence, he alone is liable for payment of compensation, as per The Times of India.
Supreme Court judges say
The bench headed by CJI, Dipak Misra referring to the Motor Vehicles Act said that “In a situation such as the present where the registered owner has purported to have transferred the vehicle but continues to be reflected in the records of the registering authority as the owner of the vehicle, he would not stand absolved of liability,” reports The Times of India.
“Parliament has consciously introduced the definition of the expression ‘owner’ in Section 2(30), making a departure from the provisions of Section 2(19) in the earlier Act of 1939. The principle underlying the provisions of Section 2(30) is that the victim of a motor accident, or in case of a death, the legal heirs of deceased should not be left in a state of uncertainty.”
“A claimant for compensation ought not to be burdened with following a trail of successive transfers, which are not registered with the registering authority. To hold otherwise would be to defeat the statutory object and purpose of the Act.”