‘Mere smell of alcohol does not mean that a person is incapable of driving’

Dharminder Singh, a resident of Sector 37, stated in his complaint that he got his car insured with New India Assurance for the period, February 9, 2016, to February 8, 2017, for a sum of Rs 5,32,304.

Written by JAGPREET SINGH SANDHU | Chandigarh | Published: May 6, 2018 3:29:03 pm
According to Sections 185 and 202 of the Motor Vehicles Act, a person would be considered intoxicated only if he is found to have more than 30 mg of alcohol in his blood per 100 ml. (Representational) According to Sections 185 and 202 of the Motor Vehicles Act, a person would be considered intoxicated only if he is found to have more than 30 mg of alcohol in his blood per 100 ml. (Representational)

“MERE SMELL of alcohol cannot lead to an inference that a person is incapable of taking care of himself/herself or to drive a vehicle,” said the Consumer Forum while finding deficiency in service of an insurance company which denied the claim of a city resident, whose car hit a cyclist and also got damaged itself. The Forum has ordered New India Assurance to pay Rs 49,137 along with 12 per cent interest from the date of repudiation and Rs 5,000 as compensation for harassment and Rs 7,500 as litigation cost.

Dharminder Singh, a resident of Sector 37, stated in his complaint that he got his car insured with New India Assurance for the period, February 9, 2016, to February 8, 2017, for a sum of Rs 5,32,304. In the meantime, the car, driven by his driver Santokh Singh, met with an accident on August 20, 2016, with a cyclist due to which it suffered damages and the cyclist succumbed to injuries. Also, a case was registered at Sector 17 PS, Chandigarh.

The complainant then informed the insurance company and the vehicle was taken for repair where the surveyor assessed the loss. However, the claim was not settled even after six months as the insurance company raised a query about the driver being allegedly under the influence of alcohol when the accident occurred. Following this, Dharminder stated that his driver Santokh Singh had normal permissible level of alcohol in his breath and examination by the medical officer, Government Multi Specialty Hospital, Sector 16, Chandigarh, revealed that he was not under any the effect of alcohol. But the claim was repudiated by the insurance firm on the ground that the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Following this, Dharminder lodged a complaint at the Consumer Forum against the insurance company.

The insurance firm, in its reply to the Forum, said the terms and conditions of the insurance policy had been flouted and therefore, the claim was rightly repudiated on the ground that Santokh Singh was under the influence of liquor during the accident and this fact had also been incorporated in the FIR.

But the Forum, after going by the facts, felt that the insurance company had not been able to produce any concrete evidence in the shape of medical test report of the driver to prove that he was driving under the influence at the time of the accident and was incapable of taking care of himself or drive.

Dharminder also submitted a medial examination report of the driver recorded by the medical officer of GMSH-16, wherein it was specifically mentioned that Santokh had consumed alcohol but he had a strait gait. So, the insurance company cannot take refuge of the FIR to contend that the driver was under the influence of liquor and was not in a position to drive. Moreover, according to Sections 185 and 202 of the Motor Vehicles Act, a person would be considered intoxicated only if he is found to have more than 30 mg of alcohol in his blood per 100 ml and in this case, no test report of the driver had been placed on record to show that the Blood Alcohol Concentration had exceeded the legally stipulated limit, stated the Forum in the order.

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