advocatemmmohan

My photo

ADVOCATEMMMOHAN -  Practicing both IN CIVIL, CRIMINAL AND FAMILY LAWS,Etc.,

WELCOME TO LEGAL WORLD

WELCOME TO MY LEGAL WORLD - FOR KNOWLEDGE IN LAW & FOR LEGAL OPINIONS - SHARE THIS

Friday, April 6, 2018

motor accident claims - corporate laws- insurance laws- However, the claim of respondent Nos.2 & 3 to the extent that they possessed a cover note issued by the then Development Officer of the Oriental Insurance Company (respondent No.1) will have to be accepted coupled with the fact that there is no positive evidence to indicate that the said Cover Note is ante dated. - even though stricto sensu the respondent No.1 Insurance Company may not be liable to pay any compensation as no insurance policy has been issued in respect of the offending vehicle, much less a valid insurance policy. But for the Cover Note issued by the Development Officer of respondent No.1 Insurance Company at a point of time when he was still working with respondent No.1, to do substantial justice, we may invoke the principle of “pay and recover”, as has 36 been enunciated by this Court in the case of National Insurance Co. Ltd. Vs. Swaran Singh & Ors.22 = the loss of monthly income due to permanent disability of 40%, the appellant will be entitled to Rs.2,25,792/­ [Rs.840 per month (i.e. 40 % of Rs.2,100/­) + 40% future prospects [as per Pranay Sethi (supra)] x 12 x 16, i.e. (840 + 336) x 12 x 16. We uphold the amounts quantified by the Tribunal towards the heads for medical treatment after the accident, motorcycle repair, mental and physical problem, as it is. However, the appellant, in our opinion, is additionally entitled to medical expenses for procurement of a prosthetic leg, which is quantified at Rs.25,000/­ (Rupees twenty five thousand only). In summation, the appellant would be entitled to the following compensation: (i) Medical treatment after accident : Rs. 5,000/­ (ii) Motorcycle repair : Rs. 2,000/­ (iii) Mental and physical problem : Rs. 20,000/­ (iv) Loss of income due to 40% permanent disability : Rs. 2,25,792/­ (v) Cost of prosthetic leg : Rs. 25,000/­ Total: Rs. 2,77,792/­ 22 (2004) 3 SCC 297 (para 110)

1
REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NOS.2499­2500 OF 2018
(Arising out of SLP (Civil) Nos.28141­42 of 2017)
Mangla Ram  …Appellant(s)
:Versus:
The Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd.
& Ors.         ….Respondent(s)
J U D G M E N T
A.M. Khanwilkar, J.
1. In   the   present   appeals,   the   appellant/claimant   has
challenged the judgment dated 5th January, 2017 passed by
the High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan, Jodhpur Bench,
in SB Civil Miscellaneous Appeal Nos.273 of 2001 and 290
of 2001, which set aside the award of the Motor Accident
Claims Tribunal [‘the  Tribunal’] granting compensation to
the appellant at the instance of respondent Nos.2 and 3
(driver and owner of the offending vehicle, respectively) as
2
also negatived the appellant’s prayer for enhancement of the
compensation amount.
2. The appellant alleges that on or about 10th February,
1990, while he was riding his motorcycle, bearing No. RJ19­6636,
  he   was   hit   by   jeep   No.   RST­4701,   owned   by
respondent   No.3   and   purportedly   being   driven   by
respondent No.2 at the time, resulting in serious   injuries
and ultimately, amputation of his right leg above the knee.
The appellant subsequently filed an application before the
Tribunal,   Jodhpur,   seeking   compensation   against   the
respondents,   including   the   respondent   No.1   insurance
company. He claimed 40% permanent disability and 100%
functional disability, contending that his primary livelihood
of   driving   heavy   transport   vehicles   (HTVs)   had   been
curtailed   on   account   of   his   amputation,   and   sought
compensation to the tune of Rs. 11,17,000/­. Respondent
Nos.2 and 3 denied the accident and the involvement of the
jeep in question. The respondent No.1 insurance company
argued that the cover note purportedly taken for the jeep in
question was fraudulent. The cover note had been given
unauthorisedly   by   its   then   Development   Officer,   no
3
premium   had   been   deposited   with   the   company   and   no
policy had been issued in that regard. Thus, the jeep was
not validly insured.
3. In   its   judgment   dated   22nd  November,   2000,   the
Tribunal discussed the evidence on record in detail. PW2
(Chainaram)   and   PW4   (Thanaram),   who   had   taken   the
appellant to the hospital after the accident, deposed that
after   the   accident,   the   jeep   which   caused   the   accident
stopped   ahead   and   they   noted   the   jeep   number   in   the
backlight and further, they heard the driver’s name being
called   out   by   the   passengers   in   the   jeep.   The   Tribunal,
however, found that their version of having noted the jeep
number   and   heard   the   driver’s   name   seemed   to   be
unnatural. The Tribunal also discarded the version of the
appellant (PW1) about the details of the vehicle as being not
reliable. The Tribunal then noted the evidence of the defence
witnesses, that the jeep in question was nowhere near the
area of the accident.   The Tribunal, however, opined that
the accident had been caused by the jeep in question, based
on the investigation report filed by the police mentioning
that   when   they   seized   the   jeep   after   one   month   of   the
4
accident, the jeep bore a scratch on the mudguard of the
tyre on the upper footboard on the left side. The Tribunal
also relied on the charge sheet (Exh.1) filed by the police,
wherein it has been stated that the accident was caused by
the jeep in question on the basis of statements made by the
appellant   and   other   witnesses   (Roopram,   Thanaram   and
Pratap Singh). The Tribunal held that there was no reason
to disagree with the conclusion of the police. In short, the
Tribunal   disbelieved   the   evidence   of   the   appellant’s
witnesses, regarding the commission of accident by the jeep
in question, as unreliable but nevertheless relied upon the
investigation report as also the charge sheet filed by the
police in that regard which was supported by two other
witnesses who did not depose before the Tribunal.
4. The   Tribunal   then   referred   to   the   site   map   of   the
accident (Exh.2), to conclude that the appellant was riding
his motorcycle one foot on wrong side from the middle of the
road and hence, had contributed to the accident by being
negligent.   The   Tribunal   also   accepted   the   plea   of   the
respondent No.1 insurance company that the cover note  as
regard   the   offending   jeep   was   fraudulent.   The   Tribunal
5
accepted the evidence of witness DW4, the branch manager
of   the   respondent   No.1   insurance   company,   that   the
company did not receive any premium under the relevant
cover note and had not issued any insurance policy in that
regard. DW 4 had deposed that the cover note was not
deposited   with   the   company.   Further,   the   concerned
development officer, whose signature was on the cover note,
had   been   removed   from   the   respondent   No.1   insurance
company but had in his possession certain cover notes,
including   the   relevant   cover   note.   DW   4   stated   that   no
insurance policy was issued on the basis of the said cover
note. The Tribunal then found that it was possible that the
Development Officer had backdated the cover note and had
not   deposited   the   money   for   issuing   a   policy   with   the
company. The Tribunal thus held that the vehicle was not
insured by the company and, therefore, the company was
not liable.
5. Based on the aforesaid observations, the Tribunal took
into   account   the   injuries   caused   to   the   appellant   and
calculated compensation of Rs. 1,27,000/­ but, owing to the
6
purported negligence of the appellant, reduced the amount
by half and finally awarded a sum of Rs. 63,500/­ to the
appellant payable by the respondent Nos. 2 and 3 jointly.
6. The appellant filed an appeal (SB Civil Misc. Appeal
No.273 of 2001) for enhancement whereas respondent Nos.
2   and   3   (driver   and   owner   of   the   jeep,   respectively)
challenged the Tribunal’s award (by way of SB Civil Misc.
Appeal No.290 of 2001), before the High Court of Rajasthan,
Jodhpur Bench. In its judgment dated 5th  January, 2017,
the High Court concluded that the Tribunal’s findings were
incorrect,   unconvincing   and   not   supported   by   evidence.
Further, the Tribunal’s reasoning, that it did not believe the
oral evidence of the parties but had nevertheless answered
the issue in favour of the claimant solely on the basis of the
police report, on the ground that there was no reason not to
believe the conclusion arrived at by the police, was flawed
and incorrect. The High Court noted that the Tribunal was
not convinced about the involvement of the vehicle, despite
which it held that involvement was proved. Furthermore, no
finding regarding negligence of the driver of the jeep had
been   recorded   by   the   Tribunal   rather   it   found   that   the
7
appellant   was  negligent  while  riding  his  motorcycle.  The
High Court took the view that mere filing of a charge­sheet,
without any finding of conviction, was insufficient to prove
negligence by respondent Nos. 2 and 3. Additionally, the
High Court also held that the statement of the appellant,
wherein he claimed that the bumper of the jeep had hit the
rear of his motorcycle, was contradicted by the investigation
report of the jeep which recorded that it did not bear out
that the jeep had been involved in an accident. The High
Court, therefore, was pleased to set aside the Tribunal’s
award and allowed the appeal filed by the driver and owner
of the jeep (respondent  Nos. 2 and 3 respectively) while
dismissing the appeal filed by the appellant.
7. We have heard Mr. Rishabh Sancheti, learned counsel
appearing for the appellant. He contends that the evidence
on record clearly indicates that the accident was caused due
to the rash and negligent driving of Jeep No. RST­4701 by
respondent No.2, which fact has been established by the
eye­witnesses. The respondent No.2 failed to adduce any
cogent evidence in his defence. He also contends that the
vehicle in question was seized by the police but there was a
8
strong   possibility   that   it   had   been   repaired   in   the
interregnum creating a discrepancy between the accounts of
the witnesses who were present at the time of the accident
and the actual condition of the vehicle at the time of seizure.
Further, the Tribunal’s reliance on the site map to infer that
the appellant was riding his motorcycle on the wrong side of
the road is erroneous as the site map merely reflected the
position of the motorcycle after the accident and not at the
time of the accident. The High Court, contends the learned
counsel, erroneously decided the matter on the principle of
‘beyond reasonable doubt’ whereas proceedings under the
Motor Vehicles Act were required to be decided on the basis
of preponderance of probabilities and thus, the degree of
proof required was much less.  Additionally, the proceedings
under the Motor Vehicles Act were not adversarial and in
that regard, the evidence on record was sufficient to reach
at the conclusion that respondent No.2’s negligence led to
the   accident   and   that   the   appellant   was   entitled   to   full
compensation.   Finally,   the   appellant   suffered   40%
permanent disability and 100% functional disability and on
that   basis,   the   Tribunal   erred   by   not   granting   higher
9
compensation to the appellant. He also contends that the
courts   below   erred   in   absolving   the   respondent   No.1
insurance company from its liability. The following cases
were   cited   by   the   learned   counsel   in   support   of   the
submissions:  Kaushnuma   Begum  &   Ors.   vs.   The   New
India Assurance Co. Ltd. and Ors.1
, Dulcina Fernandes
and Ors. vs. Joaquim Xavier Cruz and Anr.2
, Bimla Devi
and Ors. vs. Himachal Road Transport Corporation and
Ors.
3
,  Ravi   Kapur   v   State   of   Rajasthan4
,  National
Insurance   Co.   Ltd.   v   Pranay   Sethi   &   Ors.5
,  Kishan
Gopal & Anr. v Lala & Ors.6
, Harbans Lal v Harvinder
Pal7
, New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v Pazhaniammal &
Ors.8
,  United India  Insurance  Co.  Ltd. v Deepak  Goel9
,
Manisha   v   Umakant   Marotrao   Kolhe10 and Mahawati
Devi v Branch Manager11
.
1
(2001) 2 SCC 9
2
(2013) 10 SCC 646
3
(2009) 13 SCC 530
4
(2012) 9 SCC 284
5 AIR 2017 SC 5157
6
(2014) 1 SCC 244
7 2015 SCC OnLine P& H 9926
8 2011 SCC OnLine Ker 1881
9 2014 SCC OnLine Del 362
10 2015 SCC OnLine Bom 4613
11 2017 SCC OnLine Pat 1145
10
8. We   have   also   heard   Ms.   Aishwarya   Bhati,   learned
counsel for respondent Nos.2 and 3 [in SLP (Civil) No. 28141
of 2017 and respondent Nos.1 and 2 in SLP (Civil) No.28142
of 2017] the driver and owner, respectively, of the offending
jeep   and   Mr.   K.K.   Bhat,   learned   counsel   appearing   for
respondent  No.1 Insurance Company. They contend that
the appellant did not have a valid driving licence at the time
of the accident and was negligently driving on the wrong
side of the road. Even the driving licence produced by the
appellant was for a different class of vehicles and not for a
motorcycle, which he was riding at the time of the accident.
Further, the Tribunal  sans  examination of the witnesses
whose statement were recorded by the police in furtherance
of the FIR filed in relation to the subject accident could not
have based its conclusion merely due to filing of a charge
sheet in that regard and without any information as to any
conviction. Mere filing of the charge sheet by the police is
not   enough.   That   is   not   a   legal   evidence,   much   less
sufficient to record a finding of fact that either that the jeep
in question was involved in the accident or that respondent
No.2   was   negligently   driving   the   said   vehicle.   The   High
11
Court has also categorically opined that no finding on the
factum of negligence on the part of respondent No.2 driver
of the jeep has been recorded by the Tribunal; and that the
selfsame   police   report   indicates   that   the   jeep   was   not
involved in the accident in question.
9. On the issue of whether the jeep was validly insured,
Ms. Bhati contends that the respondent No.3 owner took
insurance for the jeep and even paid premium for the same
and   hence,   any  objection   taken   by  the   respondent   No.3
insurance company that such insurance was fraudulently
obtained, is untenable.  Reliance is placed on the decision
in  New   India  Assurance  Co.  Ltd.  Vs.  Rula  &  Ors12
,  to
buttress this submission. Mr. Bhat, however, argues that
the   jeep   was   not   insured   and   that   the   official   of   the
company who had issued the cover note had fraudulently
issued the same. It is possible that the said official had
backdated   certain   cover   notes,   for   which   he   had   been
expelled from the company. The evidence in that regard is
conclusive and there is a finding by the Tribunal on that
count.   Mr.   Bhat   relies   upon   the   decisions   in  Oriental
12 (2000) 3 SCC 195
12
Insurance Co. Ltd. v Meena Variyal13
, Minu B Mehta &
Anr. v Balakrishna Ramachandra  Nayan & Anr.14 and
Surender   Kumar   Arora  &   Anr.   v   Dr.   Manoj   Bisla  &
Ors.15
.
10. The moot question which arises for our consideration
in these appeals is about the justness of the decision of the
High Court in reversing the finding of fact recorded by the
Tribunal on the factum of involvement of Jeep No.RST­4701
in the accident occurred on 10th  February, 1990 at about
8.00­8.30 P.M. and also on the factum of negligence of the
driver of the jeep causing the accident in question.  On the
first aspect, the High Court has noted that the Tribunal
having discarded the oral evidence adduced by the appellant
(claimant) could not have based its finding merely on the
basis of the FIR and the charge­sheet filed against the driver
of the offending vehicle and also because the mechanical
investigation report (Exh.5) merely indicated that on the left
side of the offending vehicle a scratch mark was noticed on
the   mudguard   of   the   left   tyre   which   contradicted   the
13 (2007) 5 SCC 428
14 (1977) 2 SCC 441
15 (2012) 4 SCC 552
13
statement   of   the   claimant   and   the   Police   Investigation
Report much less showing involvement of the vehicle in the
accident. As regards the second aspect on the factum of
negligence, the High Court noted that the Tribunal did not
record any finding about the negligence of the driver of the
jeep   and   the   site   map   (Exh.   2)   would   indicate   that   the
appellant/claimant   himself   was   negligent   in   driving   the
motorcycle in the middle of the road.
11. As the judgment of the High Court has been assailed
in   the   appeal   filed   by   the   appellant   (claimant)   for
enhancement of compensation, including the finding of the
Tribunal in discarding the evidence of PW­1, PW­2 and PW4
on the factum of involvement of the offending vehicle in
the accident and also on the factum of the said vehicle being
driven   rashly   and   negligently   by   the   driver   (respondent
No.2),   we   have   been   called   upon   to   examine   even   the
correctness   of   the   approach   of   the   Tribunal.   We   are
conscious of the fact that in an appeal under Article 136 of
the Constitution, ordinarily this Court will not engage itself
in re­appreciation of the evidence as such but can certainly
examine the evidence on record to consider the challenge to
14
the findings recorded by Tribunal or the High Court, being
perverse or replete with error apparent on the face of the
record and being manifestly wrong.
12. From   the   evidence   which   has   come   on   record,   the
finding recorded by the Tribunal that the appellant while
riding his motorcycle on 10th February, 1990 between 8.00
P.M. and 8.30 P.M., met with an accident when a jeep being
driven   rashly   and   negligently,   struck   his   motorcycle
resulting in falling down and suffering severe injuries on his
right leg, which was required to be amputated from above
the knee level at MGH Hospital, seems to us to be a possible
view. That position is established from the oral evidence of
PWs­1, 2 and 4 and the charge sheet and its accompanying
documents filed by the police. Even the High Court has
broadly agreed with this finding recorded by the Tribunal.
13. The   debatable   issue   is   about   the   factum   of
involvement   of   Jeep   No.RST­4701   allegedly   driven   by
respondent   No.2   and   whether   it   was   driven   rashly   and
negligently as a result of which the accident occurred.
15
14.    Indeed, the Tribunal did not accept the version of
PW­1,   PW­2   and   PW­4   about   the   involvement   of   Jeep
No.RST­4701, but has not discarded their version in toto.
The evidence of these witnesses to the extent they have
consistently stated that when the appellant was riding on
his motorcycle bearing No.RJ 19­6636 at the relevant time,
going to Basni from Panwara Phanta and when he reached
near Siviya Nada, a green jeep coming at a high speed from
Salawas side, hit the motorcycle from back side, as a result
of which the appellant fell down and suffered severe injuries
including to his right leg which was eventually amputated
from   above   the   knee   level,   has   not   been   doubted.
Pertinently,   besides   mentioning   the   description   of   the
offending vehicle as a “jeep” they have also spoken about its
colour (green) and that it was displaying the Congress Party
flags and banners on the side of the jeep. In other words,
their version limited to having noted the jeep number, has
not been accepted. Besides, the Tribunal relied upon the
evidence   of   respondent   No.2   Chail   Singh   (DW­1)   and
Bhanwar Singh (DW­2) who had stated that the jeep was
deployed in the election campaign of Sarpanch of Somdar
16
Village   on   the   Salawas   Road   and   thus   denied   the
involvement   of   the   vehicle   in   the   accident   in   question.
Nevertheless, the Tribunal then adverted to the FIR and the
charge­sheet   filed   in   respect   of   the   accident   naming
respondent No.2 as accused. The Tribunal placed reliance
upon the copy of challan (Exh.1), copy of FIR (Exh.32), Site
Map   (Exhs.3   &   4),   Jeep   Seizure   Report   (Exh.5),   X­Ray
(Exh.6)  and Injury Report (Exh.7), to opine that these police
records gathered during the investigation of the crime not
only   confirmed   that   an   accident   had   occurred   but   also
indicated  the  involvement   of  the  offending  Jeep  No.RST4701,
which was driven by respondent No.2 at the relevant
time. The Tribunal went on to conclude that there was no
reason   to   disagree   with   the   opinion   of   the   Investigating
Agency in that behalf. The charge­sheet was accompanied
by   the   statements   of   the   appellant   and   the   witnesses
Rooparam, Thanaram and Pratap Singh. On the basis of the
entirety of the evidence, the Tribunal had held that Jeep
No.RST­4701 which was driven by respondent No.2 at the
relevant   time   was   involved   in   the   accident   in   question,
causing severe injuries to the appellant.
17
15. The High Court, however, reversed this finding of fact
rendered by the Tribunal essentially on two counts: First,
that the Tribunal having discarded the oral evidence about
the involvement of Jeep No.RST­4701 in the accident in
question, allegedly driven by respondent No.2, could not
and ought not to have recorded the finding on the relevant
issue against respondent Nos.2 & 3 merely by relying on the
documents forming part of the police charge sheet.  Second,
the jeep seizure report (Exh. 5) indicated that only a scratch
on the mudguard of the left tyre of the vehicle was noticed,
which  contradicted the claim of the appellant about the
involvement of the vehicle.
16. The question is: whether this approach of the High
Court can be sustained in law?  While dealing with a similar
situation,   this   Court   in  Bimla   Devi  (supra)   noted   the
defence of the driver and conductor of the bus which inter
alia was to cast a doubt on the police record indicating that
the person standing at the rear side of the bus, suffered
head   injury   when   the   bus   was   being   reversed   without
blowing any horn.  This Court observed that while dealing
with the claim petition in terms of Section 166 of the Motor
18
Vehicles Act, 1988, the Tribunal stricto sensu is not bound
by the pleadings of the parties, its function is to determine
the amount of fair compensation. In paragraphs 11­15, the
Court observed thus:
“11. While  dealing  with  a  claim  petition   in  terms  of
Section   166   of   the   Motor   Vehicles   Act,   1988,   a
tribunal stricto sensu is not bound by the pleadings of
the   parties;   its   function   being   to   determine   the
amount of fair compensation in the event an accident
has taken place by reason of negligence of that driver
of  a  motor  vehicle.   It   is  true  that  occurrence  of  an
accident having regard to the provisions contained in
Section   166   of   the   Act   is   a   sine   qua   non   for
entertaining a claim petition but that would not mean
that despite evidence to the effect that death of the
claimant’s  predecessor  had  taken  place  by  reason  of
an   accident   caused   by   a   motor   vehicle,   the   same
would be ignored only on the basis of a post­mortem
report   vis­à­vis   the   averments   made   in   a   claim
petition.
12. The deceased was a constable. Death took place near
a police station. The post­mortem report clearly suggests
that the deceased died of a brain injury. The place of
accident is not far from the police station. It is, therefore,
difficult to believe the story of the driver of the bus that
he slept in the bus and in the morning found a dead body
wrapped in a blanket. If the death of the constable had
taken place earlier, it is wholly unlikely that his dead
body   in   a   small   town   like   Dharampur   would   remain
undetected throughout the night particularly when it was
lying at a bus­stand and near a police station. In such an
event,   the   court   can   presume   that   the   police   officers
themselves   should   have   taken   possession   of   the   dead
body.
13. The  learned Tribunal, in  our  opinion, has rightly
proceeded   on   the   basis   that   apparently   there   was
absolutely no reason to falsely implicate Respondents
2 and 3. The claimant was not at the place of occurrence.
19
She, therefore, might not be aware of the details as to
how the accident took place but the fact that the first
information   report   had   been   lodged   in   relation   to   an
accident could not have been ignored.
14. Some discrepancies in the evidence of the claimant’s
witnesses   might   have   occurred   but   the   core   question
before   the   Tribunal   and   consequently   before   the   High
Court was as to whether the bus in question was involved
in the accident or not. For the purpose of determining the
said issue, the Court was required to apply the principle
underlying the burden of proof in terms of the provisions
of Section 106 of the Evidence Act, 1872 as to whether a
dead body wrapped in a blanket had been found at the
spot at such an early hour, which was required to be
proved by Respondents 2 and 3.
15. In   a   situation   of   this   nature,   the   Tribunal   has
rightly   taken   a   holistic   view   of   the  matter.   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.   For   the   said
purpose,   the   High   Court   should   have   taken   into
consideration the respective stories set forth by both
the parties.”
(emphasis supplied)
17. The   Court   restated   the   legal   position   that   the
claimants   were   merely   to   establish   their   case   on   the
touchstone of preponderance of probability and standard of
proof beyond reasonable doubt cannot be applied by the
Tribunal while dealing with the motor accident cases. Even
in that case, the view taken by the High Court to reverse
20
similar findings, recorded by the Tribunal was set aside.
Following the enunciation in Bimla Devi’s case (supra), this
Court in Parmeswari (supra) noted that when filing of the
complaint was not disputed, the decision of the Tribunal
ought not to have been reversed by the High Court on the
ground that nobody came from the office of the SSP to prove
the complaint.  The Court appreciated the testimony of the
eye­witnesses in paragraphs 12 & 13 and observed thus:
“12. The other ground on which the High Court dismissed
the   case   was   by   way   of   disbelieving   the   testimony   of
Umed Singh, PW 1. Such disbelief of the High Court is
totally   conjectural.   Umed   Singh   is   not   related   to   the
appellant but as a good citizen, Umed Singh extended his
help to the appellant by helping her to reach the doctor’s
chamber in order to ensure that an injured woman gets
medical treatment. The evidence of Umed Singh cannot
be disbelieved just because he did not file a complaint
himself.   We  are  constrained   to  repeat   our  observation
that the total approach of the High Court, unfortunately,
was not sensitised enough to appreciate the plight of the
victim.
13. The other so­called reason in the High Court’s order
was that as the claim petition was filed after four months
of the accident, the same is “a device to grab money from
the insurance company”. This finding in the absence of
any   material   is   certainly   perverse.   The   High   Court
appears to be not cognizant of the principle that in a road
accident claim, the strict principles of proof in a criminal
case are not attracted…….”
21
18. It will be useful to advert to the dictum in N.K.V. Bros.
(P) Ltd. Vs. M. Karumai Ammal and Ors.16, wherein it was
contended by the vehicle owner that the criminal case in
relation   to   the   accident   had   ended   in   acquittal   and   for
which reason the claim under the Motor Vehicles Act ought
to be rejected.  This Court negatived the said argument by
observing   that   the   nature   of   proof   required   to   establish
culpable   rashness,   punishable   under   the   IPC,   is   more
stringent  than negligence sufficient under the law of tort to
create liability.  The observation made in paragraph 3 of the
judgment would throw some light as to what should be the
approach  of  the  Tribunal  in motor accident  cases.   The
same reads thus:
“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  emphasizing
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
16 (1980) 3 SCC 457
22
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. Indeed, the State
must seriously consider no­fault liability by legislation. A
second aspect which pains us is the inadequacy of the
compensation   or   undue   parsimony   practised   by
tribunals. We must remember that judicial tribunals are
State organs and Article 41 of the Constitution lays the
jurisprudential   foundation   for   State   relief   against
accidental   disablement   of   citizens.   There   is   no
justification for niggardliness in compensation. A third
factor   which   is   harrowing   is   the   enormous   delay   in
disposal   of   accident   cases   resulting   in   compensation,
even if awarded, being postponed by several years. The
States must appoint sufficient number of tribunals and
the High Courts should insist upon quick disposals so
that the trauma and tragedy already sustained may not
be magnified by the injustice of delayed justice. Many
States are unjustly indifferent in this regard.”
19. In  Dulcina  Fernandes  (supra), this Court examined
similar   situation   where   the   evidence   of   claimant’s   eyewitness
  was   discarded   by   the   Tribunal   and   that   the
respondent in that case was acquitted in the criminal case
concerning the accident. This Court, however, opined that it
cannot be overlooked that upon investigation of the case
registered   against   the   respondent,  prima   facie,   materials
showing negligence were found to put him on trial. The
Court restated the settled principle that the evidence of the
claimants ought to be examined by the Tribunal on the
touchstone of preponderance of probability and certainly the
23
standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt could not have
been applied as noted in Bimla Devi (supra).  In paragraphs
8 & 9, of the reported decision, the dictum in United India
Insurance Co. Ltd. Vs. Shila Datta17, has been adverted
to as under:
“8. In United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Shila Datta while
considering the nature of a claim petition under the Motor
Vehicles Act, 1988 a three­Judge Bench of this Court has
culled out certain propositions of which Propositions (ii),
(v) and (vi) would be relevant to the facts of the present
case and, therefore, may be extracted hereinbelow: (SCC
p. 518, para 10)
‘10. (ii) The rules of the pleadings do not strictly
apply   as   the   claimant   is   required   to   make   an
application in a form prescribed under the Act. In
fact, there is no pleading where the proceedings are
suo motu initiated by the Tribunal.
* * *
(v) Though the Tribunal adjudicates on a claim and
determines the compensation, it does not do so as
in an adversarial litigation. …
(vi)   The   Tribunal   is   required   to   follow   such
summary procedure as it thinks fit. It may choose
one or more persons possessing special knowledge
of and matters relevant to inquiry, to assist it in
holding the enquiry.’
9. The following further observation available in para 10
of the Report would require specific note: (Shila Datta
case, SCC p. 519)
‘10. … We have referred to the aforesaid provisions
to show that an award by the Tribunal cannot be
seen   as   an   adversarial  adjudication   between   the
litigating   parties   to   a   dispute,   but   a   statutory
determination of compensation on the occurrence
of an accident,  after due enquiry, in accordance
with the statute.’ ”
17 (2011) 10 SCC 509
24
In   paragraph   10   of   the   reported   decision   [Dulcina
Fernandes  and  Ors.  (supra)], the Court opined that nonexamination
of witness per se cannot be treated as fatal to
the claim set up before the Tribunal. In other words, the
approach of the Tribunal should be holistic analysis of the
entire pleadings and evidence by applying the principles of
preponderance of probability.
20. In the above conspectus, the appellant is justified in
contending that the High Court committed manifest error in
reversing the holistic view of the Tribunal in reference to the
statements of witnesses forming part of the charge­sheet,
FIR, Jeep Seizure Report in particular, to hold that Jeep
No.RST­4701 driven by respondent No.2 was involved in the
accident in question. Indeed, the High Court was impressed
by   the   Mechanical   Investigation   Report   (Exh.   5)   which
stated that only a scratch mark on the mudguard of the left
tyre   of   the   vehicle   had   been   noted.   On   that   basis,   it
proceeded to observe that the same was in contradiction to
the   claim   of   the   appellant   (claimant),   ruling   out   the
possibility   of   involvement   of   the   vehicle   in   the   accident.
25
This conclusion is based on surmises and conjectures and
also in disregard of the relevant fact that the vehicle was
seized by the police after investigation, only after one month
from the date of the accident and the possibility of the same
having been repaired in the meantime could not be ruled
out.   In other words, the reasons which weighed with the
High Court for reversing the finding of fact recorded by the
Tribunal upon holistic analysis of the entire evidence, about
the   involvement   of   Jeep   No.RST­4701   in   the   accident,
cannot be countenanced. For, those reasons do not affect
the other overwhelming circumstances and evidence which
has come on record and commended to the Tribunal about
the   involvement   of   the   subject   jeep   in   the   accident   in
question. This being the main edifice, for which the High
Court allowed the appeal preferred by respondent Nos.2 &
3, it must necessarily follow that the finding of fact recorded
by the Tribunal on the factum of involvement of Jeep No.
RST­4701   in   the   accident   in   question   will   have   to   be
restored for reasons noted hitherto.
21. Another reason which weighed with the High Court to
interfere in the First Appeal filed by respondent Nos.2 & 3,
26
was absence of finding by the Tribunal about the factum of
negligence of the driver of the subject jeep.  Factually, this
view is untenable. Our understanding of the analysis done
by the Tribunal is to hold that Jeep No. RST­4701 was
driven rashly and negligently by respondent No.2 when it
collided with the motorcycle of the appellant leading to the
accident.     This   can   be   discerned   from   the   evidence   of
witnesses and the contents of the charge­sheet filed by the
police,   naming   respondent   No.2.   This   Court   in   a   recent
decision in Dulcina Fernandes (supra), noted that the key
of   negligence   on   the   part   of   the   driver   of   the   offending
vehicle   as   set   up   by   the   claimants   was   required   to   be
decided by the Tribunal on the touchstone of preponderance
of probability and certainly not by standard of proof beyond
reasonable doubt.  Suffice it to observe that the exposition
in the judgments already adverted to by us, filing of chargesheet
against respondent No.2  prima facie  points towards
his complicity in driving the vehicle negligently and rashly.
Further, even when the accused were to be acquitted in the
criminal case, this Court opined that the same may be of no
effect on the assessment of the liability required in respect
27
of motor accident cases by the Tribunal.   Reliance placed
upon the decisions in Minu B Mehta (supra)  and   Meena
Variyal   (supra), by the respondents, in our opinion, is of
no avail.   The dictum in these cases is on the matter in
issue in the concerned case.  Similarly, even the dictum in
the case of  Surender  Kumar  Arora  (supra) will be of no
avail.   In the present case, considering the entirety of the
pleadings, evidence and circumstances on record and in
particular   the   finding   recorded   by   the   Tribunal   on   the
factum of negligence of the respondent No.2, the driver of
the offending jeep, the High Court committed manifest error
in taking a contrary view which, in our opinion, is an error
apparent on the face of record and manifestly wrong.
22. In Kaushnuma Begum (supra), whilst dealing with an
application under Section 163A of the Motor Vehicles Act,
1988, this Court expounded that negligence is only one of
the   species   for   compensation   in   respect   of   the   accident
arising out of the use of motor vehicles. There are other
premises for such cause of action. After observing this, the
Court adverted to the principle expounded in Rylands Vs.
28
Fletcher18.  It may be useful to reproduce paragraphs 12­14
which read thus:
“12.  Even if there is no negligence on the part of the
driver   or   owner   of   the   motor   vehicle,   but   accident
happens while the vehicle was in use, should not the
owner be made liable  for damages to the person  who
suffered   on   account   of   such   accident?   This   question
depends upon how far the rule in Rylands v. Fletcher  can
apply   in   motor   accident   cases.   The   said   rule   is
summarised by Blackburn, J., thus:
‘[T]he true rule of law is that the person who, for his
own purposes, brings on his land, and collects and
keeps   there   anything   likely   to   do   mischief   if   it
escapes, must keep it in at his peril, and, if he does
not do so, he is prima facie answerable for all the
damage which  is  the  natural consequence   of  its
escape. He can excuse himself by showing that the
escape   was   owing   to   the   plaintiff’s   default,   or,
perhaps, that the escape was the consequence of
vis major, or the act of God; but, as nothing of this
sort exists here, it is unnecessary to inquire what
excuse would be sufficient.’
13. The House of Lords considered it and upheld the ratio
with the following dictum:
‘We   think   that   the   true   rule   of   law   is   that   the
person who, for his own purposes, brings on his
land, and collects and keeps there anything likely
to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it in at his
peril, and, if he does not do so, he is prima facie
answerable for all the damage which is the natural
consequence of its escape. He can excuse himself
by   showing   that   the   escape   was   owing   to   the
plaintiff’s default, or, perhaps, that the escape was
the consequence of vis major, or the act of God;
but,   as   nothing   of   this   sort   exists   here,   it   is
unnecessary   to   inquire   what   excuse   would   be
sufficient.’
14. The above rule eventually gained approval in a large
number of decisions rendered by courts in England and
18 (1861­73) All ER Rep 1
29
abroad. Winfield on Tort has brought out even a chapter
on the “Rule in Rylands v. Fletcher”. At p. 543 of the 15th
Edn.   of   the   celebrated   work   the   learned   author   has
pointed out that
‘over   the   years  Rylands  v.  Fletcher    has   been
applied to a remarkable variety of things: fire, gas,
explosions, electricity, oil, noxious fumes, colliery
spoil, rusty wire from a decayed fence, vibrations,
poisonous vegetation’.
He   has   elaborated   seven   defences   recognised   in
common law against action brought on the strength
of the rule in Rylands v. Fletcher. They are:
(1)   Consent   of   the   plaintiff   i.e.   volenti   non   fit
injuria.
(2) Common benefit  i.e. where the source of the
danger is maintained for the common benefit of the
plaintiff and the defendant, the defendant is not
liable for its escape.
(3) Act of stranger i.e. if the escape was caused by
the unforeseeable act of a stranger, the rule does
not apply.
(4) Exercise of statutory authority i.e. the rule will
stand excluded either when the act was done under
a   statutory   duty   or   when   a   statute   provides
otherwise.
(5) Act of God or vis major i.e. circumstances which
no   human   foresight   can   provide   against   and   of
which human prudence is not bound to recognise
the possibility.
(6)   Default   of   the   plaintiff   i.e.   if   the   damage   is
caused solely by the act or default of the plaintiff
himself, the rule will not apply.
(7) Remoteness of consequences i.e. the rule cannot
be applied ad infinitum, because even according to
the formulation of the rule made by Blackburn, J.,
the defendant is answerable only for all the damage
‘which is the natural consequence of its escape’. ”
And again, the Court, after adverting to the decisions in
Charan  Lal  Sahu  Vs.  Union  of   India19
,  Union  Carbide
19 (1990) 1 SCC 613
30
Corpn.   Vs.   Union   of   India20  and  Gujarat   SRTC   Vs.
Ramanbhai   Prabhatbhai  21,     in   paragraphs   19   &   20,
observed thus: 
“19.  Like   any   other   common   law   principle,   which   is
acceptable to our jurisprudence, the rule in  Rylands  v.
Fletcher  can   be   followed   at   least   until   any   other   new
principle which excels the former can be evolved, or until
legislation provides differently. Hence, we are disposed to
adopt   the   rule   in   claims   for   compensation   made   in
respect of motor accidents.
20. ‘No fault liability’ envisaged in Section 140 of the MV
Act is distinguishable from the rule of strict liability. In
the   former,   the   compensation   amount   is   fixed   and   is
payable even if any one of the exceptions to the rule can
be applied. It is a statutory liability created without which
the   claimant   should   not   get   any   amount   under   that
count. Compensation on account of accident arising from
the   use   of   motor   vehicles   can   be   claimed   under   the
common   law   even   without   the   aid   of   a   statute.   The
provisions of the MV Act permit that compensation paid
under “no fault liability” can be deducted from the final
amount awarded by the Tribunal. Therefore, these two
are resting on two different premises. We are, therefore, of
the opinion that even apart from Section 140 of the MV
Act, a victim in an accident which occurred while using a
motor   vehicle,   is   entitled   to   get   compensation   from   a
Tribunal unless any one of the exceptions would apply.
The Tribunal and the High Court have, therefore, gone
into error in divesting the claimants of the compensation
payable to them.”
23. Be that as it may, the next question is whether the
Tribunal was justified in concluding that the appellant was
also negligent and had contributed equally, which finding
20 (1991) 4 SCC 584
21 (1987) 3 SCC 234
31
rests only on the site map (Exh. 2) indicating the spot where
the   motorcycle   was   lying   after   the   accident?   We   find
substance in the criticism of the appellant that the spot
where the motor vehicle was found lying after the accident
cannot be the basis to assume that it was driven in or
around that spot at the relevant time.   It can be safely
inferred that after the accident of this nature in which the
appellant suffered severe injuries necessitating amputation
of his right leg above the knee level, the motorcycle would be
pushed forward after the collision and being hit by a high
speeding jeep. Neither the Tribunal nor the High Court has
found that the spot noted in the site map, one foot wrong
side on the  middle of  the road was the spot where the
accident actually occurred. However, the finding is that as
per the site map, the motorcycle was found lying at that
spot. That cannot be the basis to assume that the appellant
was driving the motorcycle on the wrong side of the road at
the relevant time. Further, the respondents did not produce
any contra evidence to indicate that  the motorcycle was
being driven on the wrong side of the road at the time when
the offending vehicle dashed it.  In this view of the matter,
32
the finding of the Tribunal that the appellant contributed to
the occurrence of the accident by driving the motorcycle on
the wrong side of the road, is manifestly wrong and cannot
be   sustained.   The   High   Court   has   not   expressed   any
opinion on this issue, having already answered the issue
about the non­involvement of the offending vehicle in favour
of respondent Nos.2 & 3.
24. In other words, we are inclined to hold that there is no
tittle   of   evidence   about   the   motorcycle   being   driven
negligently by the appellant at the time of accident.   The
respondents did not produce any such evidence.  That fact,
therefore, cannot be assumed.  Resultantly, the argument of
the respondents that the appellant did not possess a valid
motorcycle driving licence at the time of accident, will be of
no   significance.     Thus,   we   hold   that   there   is   no   legal
evidence   to   answer   the   issue   of   contributory   negligence
against the appellant. 
25. The   next   question   is   about   the   quantum   of
compensation  amount to be paid to the appellant.   The
Tribunal   noted   the   claim   of   the   appellant   that   he   was
getting   Rs.1500/­   per   month   towards   his   salary   and
33
Rs.600/­ per month towards food allowance from Bhanwar
Lal.   The   fact   that   the   appellant   had   possessed   heavy
transport   motor   vehicle   driving   licence   has   not   been
doubted. The driving licence on record being valid for a
limited period, cannot be the basis to belie  the claim of the
appellant   duly   supported   by   Bhanwar   Lal,   that   the
appellant was employed by him on his  new truck.   Besides
the said income, the appellant claimed to have earning of
Rs.1000/­ per month from farming fields.  In other words,
we find that the Tribunal has not analysed this evidence in
proper perspective. The Tribunal, however, pegged the loss
of monthly income to the appellant at Rs.520/­ per month
while computing the compensation amount on the finding
that there was no convincing evidence about complete nonemployability
of the appellant. Further, no provision has
been made by the Tribunal towards future prospects.  The
Tribunal,   therefore,   should   have   computed   the   loss   of
income on that basis.  Additionally, the appellant because of
amputation of his right leg would be forced to permanently
use prosthetic leg during his life time.   No provision has
been made by the Tribunal in that regard. On these heads,
34
the   appellant   is   certainly   entitled   for   enhanced
compensation.
26. The next question is about the liability of insurer to
pay the compensation amount.  The Tribunal has absolved
the insurance company on the finding that no premium was
received   by   the   insurance   company   nor   any   insurance
policy was ever issued by the insurance company in relation
to the offending vehicle.  The respondents no.2 and 3 had
relied on a Cover Note which according to respondent No.1 –
Insurance   Company   was   fraudulently   obtained   from   the
then   Development   Officer,   who   was   later   on   sacked   by
respondent  No.1   Insurance Company. The possibility of
misuse of some cover notes lying with him could not be
ruled out.   The respondent Nos.2 & 3 have relied on the
decision of this Court in Rula (supra).  That decision will be
of no avail to respondent Nos.2 & 3.  In that case, the Court
found that the insurance policy was already issued after
accepting   the   cheque;   whereas   in   the   present   case,   the
respondent No.1 Insurance Company has been able to show
that no payment was received by the company towards the
35
insurance   premium   nor   any   insurance   policy   had   been
issued in respect of the offending vehicle (jeep). However,
the claim of respondent Nos.2 & 3 to the extent that they
possessed a cover note issued by the then Development
Officer   of   the   Oriental   Insurance   Company   (respondent
No.1) will have to be accepted coupled with the fact that
there is no positive evidence to indicate that the said Cover
Note is ante dated. Pertinently, the Cover Note has been
issued by the then Development Officer at a point of time
when he was still working with respondent No.1 Insurance
Company. It must follow that the then Development Officer
was   acting   on   behalf   of   the   Insurance   Company,   even
though  stricto   sensu  the   respondent   No.1   Insurance
Company may not be liable to pay any compensation as no
insurance policy has been issued in respect of the offending
vehicle, much  less a valid insurance policy. But for the
Cover Note issued by the Development Officer of respondent
No.1 Insurance Company at a point of time when he was
still working with respondent No.1, to do substantial justice,
we may invoke the principle of  “pay and recover”,  as has
36
been   enunciated   by   this   Court   in   the   case   of  National
Insurance Co. Ltd. Vs. Swaran Singh & Ors.22
27. Reverting to the calculation of compensation amount,
taking   the   loss   of   monthly   income   due   to   permanent
disability   of   40%,     the   appellant   will   be   entitled   to
Rs.2,25,792/­ [Rs.840 per month (i.e. 40 % of Rs.2,100/­)
+ 40% future prospects [as per Pranay Sethi (supra)] x 12 x
16, i.e. (840 + 336) x 12 x 16.   We uphold the amounts
quantified by the Tribunal towards the heads for medical
treatment after the accident, motorcycle repair, mental and
physical problem, as it is. However, the appellant, in our
opinion,   is   additionally   entitled   to   medical   expenses   for
procurement   of   a   prosthetic   leg,   which   is   quantified   at
Rs.25,000/­   (Rupees   twenty   five   thousand   only).   In
summation, the appellant would be entitled to the following
compensation:
(i) Medical treatment after accident  : Rs.       5,000/­
(ii) Motorcycle repair : Rs.       2,000/­
(iii) Mental and physical problem : Rs.     20,000/­
(iv) Loss of income due to 
 40% permanent disability : Rs.  2,25,792/­
(v) Cost of prosthetic leg  : Rs.    25,000/­
Total: Rs. 2,77,792/­
22 (2004) 3  SCC 297 (para 110)
37
(Rupees Two Lakh Seventy Seven Thousand Seven Hundred
Ninety Two only)
28. The appellant would also be entitled to interest on the
total amount of compensation at the rate of 9% per annum
from the date of filing of the claim application i.e. 11th June,
1990 till the date of realization. The respondents will be
entitled   for   adjustment   of   amount   already   paid   to   the
appellant, if any.
29. The appeals are allowed in the above terms with costs.
  ……………………………...CJI.
       (Dipak Misra)
…..…….…………………..….J.
           (A.M. Khanwilkar)
New Delhi;
April  06, 2018.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.