‘Accident took place due to driver’s negligence’; Gauhati HC sets aside order directing Railways to pay compensation

Gauhati High Court

Gauhati High Court: The present case was an appeal under Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 challenging the judgment and order dated 19-07-2013 passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Tinsukia (‘the Tribunal’). Parthivjyoti Saikia, J., held that the accident took place because of the driver’s negligence, therefore, the appellant-Union of India being represented by the NF Railways, Maligaon, was not liable to pay any compensation to the claimant-the deceased’s wife.

Background

On 13-11-2009 around 6.18 pm, the deceased was travelling in a vehicle, which was being driven by Lok Bahadur Chetri. The handyman was also present in the vehicle along with the deceased and the driver. When the vehicle tried to cross an unmanned Railway crossing, a train coming towards them hit the said vehicle and the deceased sustained grievous injuries and later, succumbed to his injuries. Therefore, deceased’s family filed a claim before the Tribunal seeking compensation.

The Tribunal directed the National Insurance Company Ltd. to pay compensation of Rs 4,03,550 to the claimant along with interest at 6% p.a. The Tribunal further directed the appellant to pay an amount of Rs 4,03,550 to the claimant along with interest at 6% p.a. Being aggrieved by the judgment passed by the Tribunal, the appellant filed the present appeal.

Analysis, Law, and Decision

The Court noted that the driver stated in his evidence that when he had reached the level crossing, the headlights of his vehicle were in switched on mode and before crossing the Railway crossing, he did not stop the vehicle, but he and handyman had looked towards their right and left and when they found no train on the track, they proceeded towards the level crossing. The driver further stated in his evidence that just before him, an Army truck had crossed the Railway unmanned level crossing, and he just followed that truck. Immediately, a train came and hit his vehicle. The driver also said that he did not hear the whistle of the train. Thus, the Court observed that except for the driver, there were no eyewitnesses to the occurrence.

The Court referred to Section 161 of the Railways Act, 1989 (‘Railways Act’), which made it compulsory for the drivers of every vehicle crossing an unmanned level crossing, to stop and to observe whether any train was coming, before crossing the level crossing, but in the present case, the driver himself stated that he did not stop his vehicle before crossing the level crossing. The Court found it hard to believe that the driver did not hear a huge incoming train.

The Court held that the driver violated Section 161 of the Railways Act and so it was proved that the accident took place because of the driver’s negligence. Therefore, the Court stated that the appellant was not liable to pay any compensation to the claimant.

The Court allowed the appeal and the impugned judgment and order dated 19-07-2013 passed by the Tribunal, directing the appellant to pay compensation of Rs 4,03,550 to the claimant along with interest at 6% p.a. was thus set aside.

[Union of India v. Rekha Bharali, 2024 SCC OnLine Gau 600, decided on 28-05-2024]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the Appellants: U. Chakraborty, SC N.F. Railway.

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One comment

  • The first tribunal was absolutely wrong in their judgement, so should be condemned and punished with a fine with the same amount of money.

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