School can’t escape liability in case of accident involving its bus: Punjab and Haryana high court

Court ruled that even if the bus is on hire-purchase agreement, the school will be considered an owner as per MV Act, and hence be liable
The application was dismissed on August 16, 2019, by the MACT in a claim case filed by the widow and children of an accident victim, Surjit Singh, who had reportedly died in an accident, involving the school bus. (Getty Images)
The application was dismissed on August 16, 2019, by the MACT in a claim case filed by the widow and children of an accident victim, Surjit Singh, who had reportedly died in an accident, involving the school bus. (Getty Images)
Updated on May 22, 2022 01:03 AM IST
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By, Chandigarh

Schools can’t escape liability proceedings in case of an accident or any other incident involving a school bus, even if it is on hire-purchase agreement.

The high court bench of justice Alka Sarin dismissed a plea from Sanawar Model Senior Secondary School, Mohali, challenging a Motor Accident Tribunal (MACT), Mohali, order that had earlier dismissed an application from the school seeking removal of its name as a necessary party in an accident case.

The application was dismissed on August 16, 2019, by the MACT in a claim case filed by the widow and children of a mishap victim, Surjit Singh, who had reportedly died in an accident, involving the school bus.

The school had argued that it had no concern with the offending vehicle and that it was not owner of the offending vehicle.

The school argued that it had enlisted school buses for picking and dropping students and for this purpose, it was paying a fee to the owner of the buses and all liability regarding accident or other incidents was that of the owner.

It had also produced a registration certificate showing that the bus was on a hire-purchase agreement. Hence, it was argued that it was not a necessary party in the dispute and thus its name should be deleted in the proceedings before MACT.

The family’s counsel, Gopal Sharma, had referred to provisions of Section 2(30) of the Motor Vehicle (MV) Act, 1988, arguing that the person in possession of the vehicle under the agreement is also considered to be an owner. “Owner means a person in whose name a motor vehicle stands registered, and where such person is a minor, the guardian of such minor, and in relation to a motor vehicle which is the subject of a hire-purchase agreement, or an agreement of lease or an agreement of hypothecation, the person in possession of the vehicle under that agreement,” he had quoted provisions of MV Act.

The court observed that offending vehicle was being plied by the school under a hire-purchase agreement and thus, as per the MV Act provisions, it would be considered an owner.

The court also referred to the agreement document in which it was established that the bus has been purchased for transporting students and staff to school and back and for school tours/trips etc. The school is liable to pay all taxes and fees for government offices for the said bus, for the period it remains on hire with the school, it read.

“In view of the definition of ‘owner’ as given in the Act of 1988 and in view of the fact that the offending vehicle was in possession of the petitioner-school under the hire purchase agreement, I do not find any illegality or infirmity in the impugned order,” the court of justice Alka Sarin said dismissing the plea.

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