(1.)Leave granted in S.L.Ps. (C) Nos. 12040, 12369 and 13159 of 2002.
(2.)The question that arises in this batch of appeals is whether the insurer is liable to pay compensation to the dependants of the deceased passenger, while the deceased passenger was travelling in a goods vehicle and that vehicle met with an accident, on account of which the passenger died or suffered bodily injury. Originally, when the bunch of appeals was being heard, a Bench of this Court by an order dated 27-3-2001, came to the conclusion that all the appeals fall in three categories - Category (i) being those cases which are covered by the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939; Category (ii) are the cases which are covered by the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, prior to the amendment of 1994; Category (iii) are those cases which fall after the amendment of 1994. When the matters were finally heard, a Bench delivered judgment in respect of cases under Categories (i) and (iii) above on 17-8-2001. Ramesh Kumar v. National Insurance Co. Ltd., 2001 (6) SCC 713 and New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Asha Rani, 2001 (6) SCC 724 : 2001 SCC (Cri.) 1223. But so far, as the cases falling under Category (ii), namely, which are covered under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, prior to its amendment in 1994, it was felt that the decision of the Court in New India Assurance Co. v. Satpal Singh, 2000 (1) SCC 237 : AIR 2000 SC 235, requires reconsideration by a Larger Bench and that is how this bunch of appeals had been placed before a three-Judge Bench. This, in turn, necessitates interpretation of the provisions in Sec. 147 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) as it stood prior to its amendment in 1994. It may be stated that the provisions of Sec. 147 of the Act correspond to Sec. 95 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939.
(3.)Before considering the rival submissions, it would be appropriate to notice the provisions of Sec. 95 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, Sec. 147 of the Act as it stood prior to its amendment of 1994 and the provision as it stands now after the amendment of 1994.