Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Vibha Kankanwadi, J. partly modified the award granted by Motor Accident Claims Tribunal on being challenged.

The trail of events in the case is as follows:

Original claimants filed the claim petition for getting compensation on account of the death of their son—Krushna Murlidhar Kabra. Deceased along with his friend were on a motorcycle and were dashed by Mahindra Bolero Vehicle which had come in a rash and negligent manner and dashed from the backside due to which both the riders on the motorcycle received severe injuries.

Further, Respondent 1 was the owner of the Bolero Vehicle which was insured with Respondent 2 on the date of the accident.

It was contended that the deceased was 22 years old and attaining a degree in M.Com. He was also doing some private job with a monthly salary of Rs 18,000 per month. He was also involved in share purchasing and selling out of which he used to earn Rs 3000 per month and in total his income for the month was estimated to be Rs 21,000 per month. On the basis of the said amount, compensation claimed was of Rs 55,00,000.

Taking into consideration the evidence placed, the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal had held that claimants had proved that Krushna died in the said accident due to rashness and negligence if the driver of the offending vehicle. Insurance Company had also failed to prove breach of terms of policy and therefore, both the respondents were held liable to pay compensation to the claimants.

Advocate, V.N. Upadhye represented the appellant. Advocate P.R. Katneshwarkar, holding for Advocate L.B. Pallod, appeared for Respondents 1 and 2.

The appellant submitted that he is challenging the Judgment & Award on the point of quantum. He submitted that, excessive compensation was awarded when, in fact, the law requires just compensation. Tribunal’s basis for granting award and calculating the same based on an imaginary figure ended in granting bonanza to the claimants.

High Court stated that, “What remains after discarding the oral evidence in respect of point of income adduced by the claimants is, the only guess work that has been done by the learned Tribunal.”

Courts are required to take a note of the fact of unemployment prevailing in the society. Highly qualified persons are unable to get job and if at all they are able to get, then they are required to be satisfied with a lesser salary.

Due to the above-stated circumstances, merely on the count that deceased was a brilliant student, his monthly salary cannot be assessed to Rs 20,000 per month, but it was reasonable to derive that he could have fetched a job with a salary of Rs 10,000 per month with the qualifications he seemed to have attained.

Tribunal included the future prospectus in the amount as stated above of Rs 20,000, but on placing reliance on the decision of National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Pranay Sethi, (2017) 16 SCC 680, the type of calculation as stated was not expected. High Court modified the same and did the calculations based on taking into consideration his income at Rs 10,000 per month.

The fact that the deceased was a bachelor and in view of the decision in Sarla Verma v. DTC, (2009) 6 SCC 121, 50% is required to be deducted towards personal expenditure.

Thus, the claimants were entitled to get compensation of Rs 15,82,000. Accordingly, the Court gave the following order:

  • Judgment and award passed by the Member of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal is hereby set aside and modified.
  • Rest of the award is kept as it is. [Reliance General Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Murlidhar, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1548, decided on 13-08-2019]
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: B. Veerappa, J. allowed a petition filed by two nurses for quashing of an order whereby they were held liable for the death of a child due to their negligence. 

Petitioners herein were the two nurses of a hospital who had approached the Court challenging the order of Karnataka Medical Council (KMC) which had held both of them responsible for negligent death of a child. The complaint of negligence was filed by respondent whose child had died in the hospital. KMC passed an order holding that the complainant had failed to prove negligence on the part of doctors, but it held the petitioner-nurses liable for negligence and directed the Medical Superintendent to take action against them.

Counsel for the petitioner, N. Ravindranath Kamath contended that nurses are not medical practitioners as per the provisions of the Karnataka Medical Registration Act, 1961. Whereas counsel for the respondent, R. Nagendra Malik contended that only because of the negligence on the part of the petitioners, the complainant lost her child.   

The Court held that a comprehensive reading of Sections 2, 13 and 15 of the Karnataka Medical Registration Act, lead to the conclusion that nurses could not be categorized as medical practitioners practicing medicine. Thus, KMC had no jurisdiction to take action against the petitioner. 

In view of the above, holding the impugned order to be in excess of KMC’s jurisdiction, it was quashed. [Medical Superintendent, Kasturba Hospital v. Fathima Bi, Writ Petition No. 35640 of 2012 decided on 18-06-2019] 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sunil Gaur, J., while putting petitioners to terms, allowed their application filed under Section 311 CrPC to recall three prosecution witnesses for cross-examination.

Earlier, the trial court had dismissed the petitioner’s application for recall of prosecution witnesses. Dinesh Sah and Rajeev Rajan, Advocates appearing for petitioners submitted that the witnesses sought to be recalled were material witnesses who could not be cross-examined due to the negligence of the previous counsel. It was submitted that petitioners may be put to terms for their negligence, however, recalling of prosecution witnesses was essential. Per contra, Izhar Ahmad, Additional Public Prosecutor supported the trial court’s order.

On perusal of the record, the High Court found that the petitioners did not exercise due diligence in defending themselves before the trial court and the blame was sought to be put on the previous counsel, whose name was not disclosed. Be that as it may, the Court was of the view that cross-examination of prosecution witnesses was necessary for a just decision of the case. Deeming it appropriate that petitioners be put to terms, the Court allowed their application filed under Section 311 while inflicting a cost of Rs 30,000 to be deposited with Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. [Ashok v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7059, dated 04-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Rajendra Menon, CJ and V. Kameswar Rao, J. allowed a letters patent appeal against the judgment of the writ court whereby the appellants petition for compensation of his son was dismissed.

On the fateful day, the appellant and his 14-years old son had gone to Sanjay Park maintained by Respondent 1 — East Delhi Municipal Corporation, where while playing cricket the son came in contact with an electric wire lying there and was electrocuted which resulted in his death. In the action brought for compensation by the appellant, the respondents started to shift the liability on each-other, Respondent 2 being BSES, the company responsible to maintain the electricity system in the said park. The writ court dismissed the action holding that there was a dispute as to who was responsible and such a question could only be looked into by the trial court.

The High Court was of the view that approach of the writ court was not right. The Court was of the view that the negligence on the part of respondents was writ large in the improper manner of maintaining the electricity system. It was of the view that the death of deceased was caused due to negligence of the respondents. In such situation, according to the High Court, the writ court ought not to dismiss the valid claim for compensation brought by the appellant. Holding thus, the only question left was of assessing the amount of compensation to be awarded to the appellant for the death of his 14-years old son. After applying the proper formula, the Court assessed the amount of compensation at Rs 27,38,607.81 along with interest. At first, both the respondents shall each pay 50% of the amount and thereafter they could work a settlement amongst themselves. The appeal was disposed of in the manner above. [Rajeev Singhal v. MCD, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 11518, dated 27-09-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Human Rights Commission: The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports about the deaths of more than 80 infants/children at a government-run hospital in the district Banswara of Rajasthan during the last two months. It has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of Rajasthan calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks along with the steps taken and proposed to be taken to improve the conditions in the hospital. He has also been asked to inform whether any instructions in the recent past have been issued to the hospitals and other medical care institutions sensitizing them to be attentive and careful to prevent such tragic deaths due to any human errors/negligence.

Taking serious exception to the reported poor facilities and upkeep of the hospital, the Commission has observed that the negligence on the part of the hospital authorities amounts to violation of right to life of the poor victims. Many such cases from various parts of the country have come to the notice of the Commission, wherein a large number of human lives are lost due to the lack of infrastructure and callous attitude of the doctors/officers in the government run hospitals.

According to the media report, carried on the 5th September, 2017, the ‘Labour Room’ of the hospital was not properly sterilized and even the towels, being used, were found to be dirty. There was no proper sanitation in the Labour Room. The pregnant women were found to be underweight and proper consultation regarding appropriate diet was not being provided to them by the hospital. No proper records were being maintained. Due to weakness, they delivered babies at pre-mature stages and the infants suffered lung diseases leading to their deaths.

Reportedly, the State Government has suspended the Chief Medical Officer, Gynaecologist and the Block Medical Officer. Apart from this, 6 doctors have been issued show-cause notices and 6 others have been removed from the service.

National Human Rights Commission

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Sri Lanka: The Supreme Court affirmed the High Court’s award of Rs. 3,500,000/- as damages to the plaintiff in a case of accident caused due to the negligence of gatekeepers appointed by the Sri Lankan Government.

The plaintiff is the wife of the deceased who was killed in an accident while he was driving his car through a level crossing. An unscheduled train passed through the crossing at the time which hit the plaintiff’s car, fatally injuring him. The fact being argued upon was whether leaving the gates of the level crossing by the gatekeepers amounted to negligence.

The Court affirmed with the judgment of the High Court and the District Court that it was the all important duty of the gatekeepers to shut the gates of the crossing before the arrival of the train. Failure to do so amounted to negligence on the part of the gatekeepers. Any person, who sees that the gates are open, can rightfully assume that there are no trains arriving at that time and hence he can safely cross. This is exactly what happened with the deceased and hence there was no contributory negligence on his part. Since the defendants were employed as gatekeepers by Sri Lankan Railways and the negligence was within the scope of employment, therefore Sri Lankan Railways shall also be made vicariously liable. The liability of the Sri Lankan Railways also arises out of the fact that they never informed the gatekeeper defendants about the arrival of an unscheduled train. The appeal was dismissed on these grounds. [Bhadra De Silva Rajakaruna v. General Manager of Railways, SC Appeal No. 62/2013, decided on 01.08.2017]

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): If theft of a vehicle takes place due to negligence of driver, insurance company cannot be made liable for payment of insurance claim, held NCDRC while dismissing a revision petition filed by owner of a truck which was stolen when the driver of the vehicle left it unattended with the key inside the ignition. The said truck was stolen from in front of All India Institute of Medical Sciences in the night intervening 19/20 January, 2010 when the driver left to relieve himself with the key of the truck in the ignition. When the owner approached the district consumer forum, seeking payment of Rs 7.61 lakh, Forum allowed his claim. The said order of Forum was later quashed by the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Rajasthan in appeal filed by Insurance Company. In revision, which was filed by the owner of truck against the order of State Commission, NCDRC observed that the alleged theft took place solely on account of the negligence on the part of the person who was driving the truck. While dismissing the petition, NCDRC held, “The driver of the vehicle was clearly negligent in leaving the truck unattended with the key inside the ignition.  In our opinion, once it is shown that the theft took place solely on account of the driver, employed by the insured, the Insurance Company cannot be made liable for such negligent act on the part of the driver and cannot be directed to reimburse the insured.  For this reason alone, the order passed by the State Commission is eminently justified.”(Arjun Lal Jat v. HDFC Irgo General Insurance Co. Ltd., Revision Petition No. 3182 of 2014, decided on August 28, 2014)

To read the full judgment, refer SCCOnLine