Chh HC | How is “doctrine of preponderance of probabilities” applied in cases relating to Motor Vehicle Act? Appeal Allowed

Chhattisgarh High Court

Chhattisgarh High Court: Parth Prateem Sahu J., set aside the impugned award and allowed the appeal by applying the doctrine of preponderance of probabilities.

On 25-01-2010, at about 7.30 AM, when Ghanshyam Baghel was going to his house, on the way, near turn towards Sunder Dera, one Pickup Bolero Jeep (hereinafter referred to as ‘offending vehicle’) driven by non-applicant 1 rashly and negligently dashed Ghanshyam Baghel and caused accident who suffered grievous injuries and succumbed to them. The accident was reported to concerned Police Station, and FIR was registered against non applicant 1. After completion of investigation, chargesheet was submitted before Court of Judicial Magistrate First Class. Claimants who are widow and mother of deceased filed an application under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicle Act i.e. M.V. Act before learned Claims Tribunal seeking compensation. The Claims Tribunal held that claimants failed to prove motor accidental injuries suffered by deceased Ghanshyam Baghel on account of rash and negligent driving of offending vehicle by non-applicant 1; there was no breach of policy conditions and dismissed the claim application by impugned order.

Counsel for the appellants submitted that Claims Tribunal erred in dismissing the claim only on the basis of contents of First Information Report and not considering the entire documents and evidence placed on record. It was further contended that case requires reconsideration prayed for remand of the case.

Counsel for the respondents submitted that the Claims Tribunal has rightly taken into consideration the contents of First Information Report, which has been lodged immediately after the accident wherein it is specifically mentioned that deceased while carrying bag of seeds fell down on road and suffered injuries. He supported the impugned award and submits that there is no merit in appeal and the same is liable to be dismissed.

The Court observed that Claims Tribunal has not taken into consideration the entire material available on record and nature of proof, which is required to be brought by the claimants before Claims Tribunal to prove their case in the proceeding under Section 166 of the M.V. Act. The claim cases are required to be decided on the basis of preponderance of probabilities.

The doctrine of preponderance of probabilities was discussed in the judgment titled Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research v. Jaspal Singh, (2009) 7 SCC 330 which held as under:

“17. In Syad Akbar v. State of Karnataka (1980) 1 SCC 30 this Court dealt with in details the distinction between negligence in civil law and in criminal law. It has been held that there is a marked difference as to the effect of evidence, namely, the proof, in civil and criminal proceedings. In civil proceedings, a mere preponderance of probability is sufficient, and the defendant is not necessarily entitled to the benefit of every reasonable doubt; but in criminal proceedings, the persuasion of guilt must amount to such a moral certainty as convinces the mind of the court, as a reasonable man, beyond all reasonable doubt.”

  In Bimla Devi v. Himachal RTC, (2009) 13 SCC 530

“It was necessary to be borne in mind that strict proof of an accident caused by a particular bus in a particular manner may not be possible to be done by the claimants. The claimants were merely to establish their case on the touchstone of preponderance of probability. The standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt could not have been applied.”

 The Supreme Court judgment N.K.V. Bros. (P) Ltd. v. M. Karumai Ammal, (1980) 3 SCC 457 held

“3. Road accidents are one of the top killers in our country, specially when truck and bus drivers operate nocturnally. This proverbial recklessness often persuades the courts, as has been observed by us earlier in other cases, to draw an initial presumption in several cases based on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. Accidents Tribunals must take special care to see that innocent victims do not suffer and drivers and owners do not escape liability merely because of some doubt here or some obscurity there. Save in plain cases, culpability must be inferred from the circumstances where it is fairly reasonable. The court should not succumb to niceties, technicalities and mystic maybes. We are emphasising this aspect because we are often distressed by transport operators getting away with it thanks to judicial laxity, despite the fact that they do not exercise sufficient disciplinary control over the drivers in the matter of careful driving. The heavy economic impact of culpable driving of public transport must bring owner and driver to their responsibility to their ‘neighbour’……………”

The Court thus held that Claims Tribunal has not conducted an enquiry as provided under Section 168 of the M.V. Act and Rule 226 of the Chhattisgarh Motor Vehicle Rules, 1994. Taking into consideration the entire material available on record as well as looking to the object of M.V. Act and the provisions made thereunder, Claims Tribunal failed to appreciate the evidence. Hence Claims Tribunal erred in dismissing the entire claim application based on one of the documents i.e. contents of First Information Report.

In view of the above, impugned order was set aside and matter remitted back to the Claims Tribunal for reconsideration.[Shanti Bai v. Daneshwar Singh, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 604, decided on 03-11-2020]

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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