Del HC | Ambiguity in evidence as to locations of accident is material where accused is alleged to ride motor vehicle in rash and negligent manner

Delhi High Court: Vibhu Bakhru, J. dismissed a criminal petition filed by the State against the order of the trial court whereby the respondent was acquitted of the offence under Section 279 (rash driving or riding on a public way) read with Section 304-A (causing death by negligence) of the Penal Code.

The respondent, who was driving a scooter at the time the incident, was accused to have hit the deceased while she was crossing the road. The deceased, being hit by the respondent, became unconscious and subsequently died. It was alleged that the respondent was riding the scooter in a rash and negligent manner. He was booked under aforesaid sections of the Penal Code. However, he was acquitted by the trial court. Aggrieved thereby, the State filed the instant petition.

Amit Gupta, APP appearing for the State assailed the impugned order. Per contra, Sumit Sharma, Advocate representing the respondent supported the same.

On a plain reading of the testimony of the main prosecution witness (who was with the deceased at the time of the accident), the High Court noted, inter alia, that there was ambiguity regarding the spot where the accident had taken place. However, it did appear that the victim was not crossing the road at a red light. There was no certainty as to whether the deceased was crossing the road at a red light and at a zero crossing, or whether the deceased was crossing the road at another point, half a kilometre away, where there was no zebra crossing. It was observed: “The ambiguity as to the location of the incident is material. This is so because the allegation against the accused is that he was riding the scooter in a rash and negligent manner, which had resulted in the accident.”

The Court was of the opinion:

“Clearly if it was established that the victim was crossing the road at a zebra crossing while the light was red; negligence on part of the respondent would be established. This would not be so if the deceased was crossing the road at any other point. It is difficult to accept that negligence on part of the respondent has been established beyond any reasonable doubt. PW-7 had at one point stated that she had seen the accused riding the scooter in a fast and negligent manner and striking the deceased. However, in her cross-examination, she stated that the deceased was walking five to six metres behind her and she had turned back on hearing the noise of the impact. Thus, clearly, she could not have witnessed the respondent riding the scooter in a fast and negligent manner, as deposed by her.”

Considering the evidence in totality, the Court held that the prosecution failed to establish the offence against the respondent beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore the instant petition was dismissed.[State (NCT of Delhi) v. Rajesh Kumar, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 9979, decided on 05-09-2019]

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