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

Bombay High Court: V.M. Deshpande, J., quashed the trial court’s Judgment convicting the applicant herein for the offences punishable under Sections 279 (rash driving or riding on a public way) and 304-A (causing death by negligence) IPC. The order of the Ad-hoc Additional Sessions Judge was also set aside whereby he confirmed the trial court’s Judgment.

As per the prosecution, the applicant, a driver with Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, was driving the offending bus which knocked down a 6-year old girl. The incident was reported, and the applicant was tried and convicted as aforesaid. He challenged his conviction but the appeal was dismissed by the Ad-hoc Additional Sessions Judge. Aggrieved thereby, the applicant filed the present revision application. His defence throughout was that he was not driving the offending bus at the time of the incident.

The High Court stated: “It was open for the prosecution to obtain the relevant record from the depot to which the applicant was attached, to show that at the relevant time the applicant was driving the offending vehicle. Further, it was obligatory on the part of the prosecution to prove those documents. In the present case, that has not been done. On the contrary, the learned lower appellate Court, it appears that, dismissed the appeal on the basis of unproved documents.” In the Court’s opinion, the evidence available was not sufficient to conclusively prove that the applicant was driving the offending bus. He was found entitled to benefit of doubt. Resultantly, the Court quashed his conviction and also set aside the First Appellate Court’s order mentioned above. [Sudhir v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 558, decided on 02-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Sarang V. Kotwal, J., held that conviction for the offences punishable under Section 279 (rash driving in a public way) and 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) IPC is not maintainable where the driver (convict-applicant) was facing the real threat of imminent  death at the hands of robbers carrying razor.

On 11-03-1983, a robbery took place at about 9:35 am, after which the robbers sat in applicant’s taxi. Prosecution’s case was that the taxi was driven in a rash and negligent manner injuring four pedestrians. The prosecution raised doubts as to the applicant’s involvement in the conspiracy but was refused by the trial Judge. He was, however, convicted under Sections 279 and 337 IPC. The applicant, represented by Ganesh Gole along with Ritesh Ratnam and Ateer Shirodkar, challenged his conviction.

On perusing the record, the High Court found that the applicant had sufficiently proved his case on the touchstone of probability. In fact, he himself if had suffered a razor injury on his neck. He was under a real and reasonable apprehension of suffering grievous injury or even death at the hands of the robbers who had forcibly entered his taxi. Referring to Section 106 IPC which makes a provision for the right of private defence against deadly assault when there is a risk of harm to an innocent person, the Court held that the applicant could not be held guilty for causing minor injuries to the pedestrians. Therefore, the trial court’s order was reversed and he was acquitted. [Hamza Mohd. Ibrahim Ansari v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 547, decided on 29-03-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench of N.V. Ramana and S. Abdul Nazeer, JJ. allowed an appeal filed by the appellant (insurer) against the judgment and order of Tripura High Court whereby the insurer was directed to pay compensation to the respondents (legal representatives of the deceased) as awarded by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, W.B.

On 20-5-2012, deceased Dilip Bhowmik was returning to his house driving his vehicle. Near the bridge of the Agartala Railway Station, he met with an accident and sustained grievous injuries. He was declared dead on arrival by the hospital. At the relevant time, the deceased was 43 years old. According to respondents, his monthly income was Rs 15,000. They filed a claim petition, pursuant to which the Tribunal passed an award granting compensation of Rs 10,57,800. Aggrieved by the same the insurer filed appeal before the High Court which accepted it’s contention that the deceased was not a third party. However, the High Court directed the insurer to pay the compensation with a rider that it should not be treated as a precedent. Aggrieved thus, the insurer preferred the present appeal.

The Supreme Court considered the submissions of the parties and perused the record. It was noted that it was an admitted position that the deceased was the owner-cum-driver of the vehicle in question. The accident occurred due to rash and negligent driving by the deceased. No other vehicle was involved in the accident. The deceased being the owner of the offending vehicle, was not a third party within the meaning of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. The Court referred to the decision in Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Jhuma Saha, (2007) 9 SCC 263 and observed that a claimant cannot maintain a claim on the basis of his own fault or rash and negligent driving. Therefore, the respondents being legal representatives of the deceased could not have maintained the claim petition filed under Section 166 of the Act. The Court held that the High Court was not justified in directing the insurer to pay compensation determined by the Tribunal. However, the respondents were held entitled to the indemnification extended to personal accident of the deceased which was limited to Rs 2 lakhs under the contract of insurance. The appeal was disposed of in the terms above. [National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Ashalata Bhowmik,2018 SCC OnLine SC 1264, dated 31-08-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: The Dharwad Bench of Karnataka High Court recently held that over speeding is not necessary to constitute rash driving. In this case, the accused was driving in a rash and negligent manner so as to endanger human life or likely to cause hurt or injury to others and as a result he hit a cyclist who succumbed to the injuries received as a result of the accident. The accused has appealed, inter alia, on the ground that the courts below ignored the fact that near the place where the alleged accident took place there were speed breakers and traffic signals, and as such, it was impossible for the alleged offending vehicle to go in a high speed.

The Court observed that by the word ‘rash driving’ it cannot be automatically imagined that the vehicle alleged to be rash in its driving should also necessarily be coupled with high speed. Court referred the Supreme Court’s judgment in Ravi Kapur v. State of Rajasthan, (2012) 9 SCC 284. In that judgment the Hon’ble Apex Court relied upon its previous judgment of Mohd. Aynuddin v. State of A.P., (2000) 7 SCC 72, wherein it was observed that a rash act is primarily an overhasty act. From the observation made by the Hon’ble Apex Court, the High Court concluded that to constitute a rash and negligent driving it is not necessary that the offending vehicle must have always exceeded its speed limit or over speeded. Failure to exercise the required care and caution expected to be taken by a driver in a circumstance, in which he was driving would constitute a negligent driving. [Moulasab v. State of Karnataka, 2018 SCC OnLine Kar 640, dated 11-06-2018]