Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Dr Kaushal Jayendra Thaker and Ajai Tyagi, JJ., while addressing a case of negligent driving, expressed that,

“…if the injury rather death is caused by something owned or controlled by the negligent party then he is directly liable.”

An appeal was filed challenging the decision by Motor Accident Claims Tribunal.

It was submitted that the deceased was driving his car and when he reached Tehsil Aonla, the bus of U.P.S.R.T.C was being driven rashly and negligently by its driver dashed with the car which was being driven by the deceased.

His earning was Rs 95,960 per month and the legal heirs were dependent on him, therefore, they claimed a sum of Rs 1,80,00,000 with interest.

Negligence

The term negligence means failure to exercise care towards others which a reasonable and prudent person would in a circumstance or taking action which such a reasonable person would not.

Negligence can be both intentional or accidental though it is normally accidental. More particularly, it connotes reckless driving and the injured must always prove that either side is negligent.

Elaborating further, it was stated that if the injury rather death is caused by something owned or controlled by the negligent party then he is directly liable otherwise the principle of “res ipsa loquitur” meaning thereby “the things speak for itself” would apply.

Contributory Negligence

A person who either contributes or is co-author of the accident would be liable for his contribution to the accident having taken place and that amount will be decided from the compensation payable to him if he is injured and to legal representatives, if he dies in the accident.

Court’s opinion | Rash and Negligent Driving

Bench on noting the fact that the bus which was a bigger vehicle had to be more cautious, the instantaneous death of the driver of the car depicted that the vehicle driven by the respondent was being driven in rash and negligent manner, but the driver of the car was also considered negligent.

Lastly, the Court held that if U.P.S.R.T.C does not make payment within 30 days then only it will be liable for interest.

In view of the above, appeal was partly allowed. [U.P.S.R.T.C v. Anamika Deo, First Appeal from Order No. 1039 of 2021, decided on 14-2-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

Counsel for Appellant: Dharmendra Dhar Dubey, Awadhesh Kumar Saxena

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: While hearing the appeal filed by Maharashtra SRTC, the Division Bench comprising of M. R. Shah* and B. V. Nagarathna, JJ., held that punishment of dismissal from service per se cannot be said to be an unfair labour practice for being disproportionate to the misconduct proved.

Background

On 23-10-1992 when the respondent, a bus driver employed by the MSRTC, was driving a bus, he met with an accident with a jeep coming from the opposite direction. The allegation against the respondent-driver was that instead of taking the bus to the left side, he took the bus to the extreme right and as a result, the jeep and the bus collided. The accident resulted in death of four passengers on the spot and six passengers were seriously injured. The impact of the collision was so high that the jeep was pushed back by about 25 feet. The driver of the jeep also sustained injuries. The respondent was subjected to disciplinary enquiry, and was consequently dismissed from service. A criminal case was also lodged against the driver under Section 279 of IPC for negligent and rash driving. However, he came to be acquitted.

Findings of the Labour Court and Industrial Tribunal

The Labour Court upheld the order of dismissal. In a revision application the Industrial Tribunal considering the acquittal of the respondent in criminal proceedings and observing that the drivers of both the vehicles were negligent (contributory negligence), the Industrial Tribunal exercised powers under item 1(g) of Schedule IV of the Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971; and held that the order of dismissal was disproportionate to the misconduct proved. Hence, the Tribunal ordered reinstatement of the respondent without back wages but with continuity of service.

Dismissal by the High Court

The order of the Tribunal was challenged before the High Court by the appellant-MSRTC. The High Court, by the impugned order and judgment had only dismissed the appeal but also directed the appellant to pay to the respondent back wages with effect from 01-11-2003 to 31-05-2018 i.e. which was the date of his superannuation. The High Court also directed that the respondent should also be entitled to retiral benefits on the basis of continuity of service.

Factual Analysis

Noticing that while acquitting the accused–respondent the Criminal Court observed that the prosecution failed to prove that the incident occurred due to rash and negligent driving of the accused-respondent only and none else, and acquitted the respondent by classifying the case as one of a contributory negligence, the Bench stated that even if it was assumed that even driver of the jeep was also negligent, that did not that the respondent was not negligent at all. Hence, it could not absolve him of the misconduct.

Further, the Criminal Court acquitted the respondent on the hostility of the witnesses; the evidence led by the interested witnesses; lacuna in examination of the investigating officer; panch for the spot panchnama of the incident, etc. On the contrary in the departmental proceedings the misconduct of driving the vehicle rashly and negligently which caused accident and due to which four persons died has been established and proved. Therefore, the Bench said,

“An acquittal in a criminal trial has no bearing or relevance on the disciplinary proceedings as the standard of proof in both the cases are different and the proceedings operate in different fields and with different objectives.”

Therefore, the Bench concluded that the Industrial Court had erred in giving much stress on the acquittal of the respondent by the criminal court.

Whether punishment of dismissal can be said to be an unfair labour practice for being disproportionate to the misconduct proved?

The Bench observed that the Labour Court did not interfere with the order of dismissal by giving cogent reasons and after re-appreciating the entire evidence on record including the order of acquittal passed by the criminal court. However, the Industrial Tribunal interfered with the order of dismissal solely on the ground that punishment of dismissal was disproportionate to the misconduct proved and the same can be said to be to be unfair labour practice as per item 1(g) of Schedule IV of the MRTU & PULP Act, 1971. The Bench stated,

Clause No. 1(g) can only be invoked in a case where it is found that dismissal of an employee is for misconduct of a minor or technical character, without having any regard to the nature of the particular misconduct or the past record of service of the employee, so as to amount to a shockingly disproportionate punishment.

However, as per the appellant, the respondent was in service for three years and during three years’ service tenure he was punished four times, therefore, the Bench opined that it could not be said that the order of dismissal was without having any regard to the past record of the service of the respondent. Consequently, the Industrial Court wrongly invoked clause 1(g) of Schedule IV of the MRTU & PULP Act, 1971 as it could not be said that the dismissal of the respondent was for misconduct of a minor or technical character, without having any regard to the nature of the misconduct.

Conclusion

In the backdrop of above, the Bench concluded that the Industrial Court committed a grave error and had exceeded in its jurisdiction while interfering with the order of dismissal passed by the disciplinary authority. Similarly, the impugned judgment of the High Court directing the appellant to pay wages to the respondent also could not have been passed in a petition filed by the appellant. The Bench explained, it was not a petition filed by the workman and the relief granted was beyond the scope and ambit of the controversy before the High Court.

Accordingly, the impugned order and judgment was quashed and set aside and the judgment and Award of the Labour Court was restored. The order of dismissal passed by the disciplinary authority was upheld.

[Maharashtra SRTC v. Dilip Uttam Jayabhay, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1, decided on 03-01-2022]


*Judgment by: Justice M. R. Shah


Appearance by:

For Maharashtra SRTC: Mayuri Raghuvanshi, Advocate

For the Respondent: Nishanth Patil, Advocate


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together


 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case dating back to the year 1995 where a bus driver had caused an accident, thereby injuring a driver of a car, the 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, Vineet Saran and MR Shah, JJ has upheld the conviction of the bus driver under Sections 279 and 338 of IPC but has held that sending the accused to jail after 26 years would be harsh.

The incident took place on 16.02.1995 i.e. more than 26 years ago and the appellant was throughout on the bail. The Trial Court recorded the conviction under Section 279, 338 and awarded sentence of imprisonment of six months and further sentenced to pay a fine of Rs.500/- under Section 337.

However, the Supreme Court substituted the sentence by fine of Rs. 1000/- each.

“The conviction of appellant is affirmed, however, looking to the facts and circumstances of the present case specially the fact that 26 years have elapsed from the incident, we are inclined to substitute the sentence of six months imprisonment under Section 279 and 338 into fine. Six months sentence under Section 279 and 338 IPC are substituted by fine of Rs.1000/- each whereas sentence of fine under Section 337 IPC is maintained.”

[Surendran v. Sub-Inspector of Police, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 445, decided on 30.06.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice Ashok Bhushan 

Messiah of the sufferers: Bidding adieu to Justice Ashok Bhushan

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Anil S. Kilor, J., decided an appeal wherein the claim petition was rejected by the Motor Accident Tribunal on certain grounds.

FACTS

Deceased Baby was traveling in a jeep owned by respondent 1. It has been stated that the vehicles’ driver was driving at a high speed and in a negligent manner resulting in a violent dash to a tree.

In view of the above incident, the husband of the deceased Baby and her two sons filed a claim petition under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicle Act claiming Rs 5,00,000 towards compensation.

Insurance Company |Breach of Condition of Insurance Policy

Respondent 2 i.e the Insurance Company resisted the claim by filing a written statement on the grounds that the driver of the offending vehicle was not holding a valid motor driving license on the date of the accident and the jeep was insured for private use but it was used for commercial purpose in breach of a condition of the Insurance policy.

Since the claim petition was rejected by the tribunal, the present appeal was filed.

Counsel for the appellants, P.R. Agrawal; K.B Zinjarde, Counsel for the legal representatives of respondent 1 owner of the offending vehicle and S.K. Pardhy, Counsel for the Insurance Company.

Analysis and Decision

Bench on perusal of the grounds of rejection by the tribunal examined the correctness and legality of the same.

Ground 1:

Claim is based on falsity

Registration of births, those who born in remote areas like the deceased Baby or the appellant 1, have a lesser likelihood of registration of their birth and possessing a birth certificate.

In absence of schools in remote tribal areas till the recent past, it was not possible to take education for many. Hence no school record in respect of date of birth is also available.

Therefore, there is a practice of mentioning the approximate age.

The Court found no ill-intention of the claimants in mentioning the age of the deceased as 38 years.

Hence, the rejection of the claim petition by the Tribunal on the ground that the case of the claimant is based on falsity is erroneous.

Ground 2:

Husband of the deceased Baby, being an earning member, cannot claim compensation for death of his wife in the accident

The deceased was a housewife, therefore, claimants have lost personal care and attention given by the deceased.

A housewife holds the family together. She is a pillar support for her husband, a guiding light for her child/children and harbor for the family’s elderly.

In regard to the importance of the role of a housewife, High Court referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in Arun Kumar Agrawal v. National Insurance Company Ltd., (2010) 9 SCC 218.

Further, the Court stated that,

“…the loss to the husband and children consequent upon the death of the housewife or mother has to be computed by estimating the loss of personal care and attention given by the deceased to her children as a mother and to her husband as a wife and further for loss of gratuitous and the multifarious services rendered by the housewives for managing the entire family.”

Hence, the claim of the claimants on the ground that the husband and the major sons are not entitled to claim compensation on the death of the wife or mother, appears to be in ignorance of the well-established principals of law.

In Court’s opinion, the deceased being a woman and mother of two children would have also contributed her physical labour for the maintenance of the household and also taking care of her children. Therefore, being a labourer and maintaining her family, her daily income should be fixed at Rs 200 per day and Rs 6000 per month.

Ground 3:

The private vehicle was used for commercial purposes in breach of conditions of the Insurance Policy moreover the driver was not holding a valid licence.

In view of the Supreme Court decision in S. Iyyapan v. United India Insurance Company Ltd., 2013 (6) Mh. L.J. 1 and this Court’s decision in Dnyaneshwar v. Raju, 2020(1) Mah. Law Journal 377, wherein it was held that it is the vicarious liability of the owner of the vehicle to pay compensation even if due to rash and negligent driving of the driver, the accident had occurred.

Thus, in view of the above-stated position, ground 3 was also rejected.

DECISION

High Court held that it is the statutory duty of the Insurance Company to pay the amount of compensation even in breach of a policy condition.

Court directed the Insurance Company to pay the compensation amount in three months.

In view of the aforesaid terms, the appeal was allowed. [Rambhau v. Shivlal, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 935, decided on 17-09-2020]

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]