Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge bench comprising of M.G. Giratkar, J. dismissed a revision petition filed against the judgment of Judicial Magistrate and confirmed by Additional Sessions Judge, Nagpur whereby the petitioner was convicted for offence punishable under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

The petitioner and the complainant were businessmen. They entered into a transaction whereby the complainant provided a hand loan of Rs 50,000 to the petitioner. The petitioner issued a cheque which was presented to the bank by the complainant on default of repayment of the amount. It was returned by the bank with remark “insufficient fund”. The complainant initiated legal proceedings which culminated in petitioner’s conviction as mentioned above.

Notably, the complainant did not adduce any evidence to show that the advanced Rs 50,000 to the petitioner. However, he held a cheque and an acknowledgment slip. The petitioner did not dispute his signatures on the documents.

The High Court relied on K. Bhaskaran v. Sankaran Vaidhyan Balan, (1999) 7 SCC 510 for the proposition that where signature on the cheque is admitted to be that of accused, the presumption envisaged in Section 118 of the Negotiable Instruments Act can legally be inferred that cheque was drawn for consideration on the date which it bears. Furthermore, Section 139 enjoins on the Court to presume that holder of the cheque received it for discharge of debt or liability and burden is on the accused to rebut this presumption. In the present case, nothing was brought on record to show that the accused did not receive Rs 50,000. Also, he did not deny his signatures on the cheque and acknowledgment. As such, the Court held that there was no illegality in the impugned judgment. Th revision petition was dismissed. [Amol v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 6682, dated 22-12-2018]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa: This appeal was filed before a 5-Judge Bench comprising of Tshiqi, Swain and Dambuza, JJA., Mokgohloa and Mothle, AJJA.,  against a sentence of 5-year imprisonment for commission of offence of rape.

Respondent was indicted on three counts i.e. of housebreaking with intend to rob, rape read with Section 51(1), and robbery. He was convicted of theft and rape in terms of Section 51 (2) of the Minimum Sentences Act. Respondent submitted his personal circumstances that he was 19 years old studying in school Grade 10 and first offender of rape. It was submitted that he was under influence of liquor at the time of commission of crime. Trial Court on the basis of the above circumstances found personal circumstances of the respondent amounting to substantial and compelling circumstances and sentenced him 5 years imprisonment. Petitioner contended that respondent’s conviction of rape rendered him liable for punishment under Section 51(2) of the Minimum Sentences Act which prescribes a minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.

Therefore, appeal against sentence was upheld, sentence was set aside and replaced with a minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. [Director of Public Prosecutions Limpopo v. Koketso Motloutsi, Case No. 527 of 2018, dated 04-12-2018]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka: An appeal was filed before a Single Judge Bench comprising of M.M.A. Gaffoor, J., against a judgment of district judge where the original plaintiff instituted an action seeking partition of a land.

Claim of plaintiff regarding the land was to receive undivided 1/2 share against the share of defendants whereas the two defendants were entitled to receive undivided 1/4 share according to his amended petition. The other defendants averted that they were exclusively entitled to the plantations and improvements in the land sought to be partitioned in this action. District court favoured the other defendants. Subsequently, the original plaintiff died and his son was substituted in his place as plaintiff-appellant who filed this appeal for setting aside of the above order of District Court.

Supreme Court observed after perusal of the plaint that the substituted plaintiff had amended the original plaint claiming that he was entitled to an undivided 1/2 share against two others entitled to an undivided 1/4 share while in the original plaint it was to be divided between four defendants. It was observed that substituted plaintiff was not completely aware of the facts of the case due to his admission of the fact that his father, the original plaintiff, was well aware of the facts of the case compared to himself and due to the same he had to amend the plaint. Appellant failed to show the existence of facts which could show his legal right or liability, thereby he failed to prove his case. Therefore, the appeal was dismissed. [Ahamed Abdulla Marikkar Mesthiriyar  Mohamed Ismail v. Sammon Hadjiar,2018 SCC OnLine SL CA 85, decided on 01-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division bench comprising of Dinesh Maheshwari and Krishna N. Dixit, JJ. dismissed a writ petition filed by fugitive industrialist Vijay Mallya, against order requiring pre-deposit of Rs. 3101 crores in order to maintain appeal against fixation of liability for debt due to banks.

The factual background of the case revolves around the default in payment of debts taken by petitioner’s company Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. from a consortium of banks. The consortium of banks instituted a petition for recovery of their money in the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT), Karnataka wherein the petitioner was held liable for the recovery of money. Aggrieved by the said order, the petitioner preferred an appeal in Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT) which was dismissed for want of appearance and non-compliance of office objections. An application was filed by the petitioner seeking restoration of the appeal whereupon DRAT directed him to deposit a sum of Rs 3101 crores and observed that in case of failure of compliance, the appeal would be liable to dismissed automatically. The petitioner did not make such deposit and consequently, the appeal stood dismissed. Thereafter, the petitioner filed another application seeking restoration of the dismissed appeal and praying enlargement of time for making the deposit. The Hon’ble Tribunal dismissed this application holding that there was no substance in the prayers of petitioner. It is against this order of DRAT, that the instant writ petition has been filed, praying for quashing of the said order.

The court discussed the effect of amendment in the year 2016 on Section 21 of the Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 and opined that the amendment did not relate to the right of appeal as such but to the conditions subject to which the said right would become exercisable. It was noted that prior to the 2016 amendment, the borrower had an absolute and unconditional right to appeal and the proviso to Section 21 conferred power on DRAT to waive off or limit the condition of pre-deposit. But after the amendment, this absolute discretion of DRAT was restricted and now it only has the power to reduce the pre-deposit to not less than 25% of the decretal sum. This trimming of DRAT’s power being essentially an amendment by way of substitution was held to be retrospective in operation. In order to give force to its reasoning, the court relied on the decision of Full Bench of this High Court in Hassan Cooperative Milk Producers Societies Union Ltd. v State of Karnataka, 2014 SCC OnLine Kar 2924.

The High Court also adverted to the facts of the case and expressed serious doubts over bonafides of the proceedings and the seriousness of the petitioner in pursuing his remedies. As such, it was held that the DRAT’s requirement of pre-deposit for maintaining the appeal was legitimate and the writ petition was dismissed for being bereft of substance and merits. [Vijay Mallya v. State Bank of India, WP (C) No. 22111of 2018, decided on 05-10-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A.M. Khanwilkar, J. delivered the judgment for CJ Dipak Misra and himself whereby the matter concerning the liability of the insurer to pay compensation in a motor accident claim was remanded back to the Allahabad High Court.

Respondents 1-5 filed a claim before the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal consequent to the death of one Sanoj Kumar. The deceased was going for morning walk when he was hit by a Bolero loader driven in a rash and negligent manner. The Tribunal absolved the liability of the insurer – Oriental Insurance Co. – on the finding that the driver of the said vehicle did not have a valid driving licence. However, the insurer was directed to compensation amount as determined with a liberty to recover the same from the owner and driver of the vehicle The said decision was affirmed by the High Court. Being aggrieved, the appellant – owner of the vehicle – filed the instant appeal.

The question before the Supreme Court was that ‘whether the Tribunal was right in holding that the insurer was not liable as the driver had a fake licence?’ The Court referred PEPSU Road Transport Corpn. v. National Insurance Co., (2013) 10 SCC 217 and Premkumari v. Prahlad Dev, (2008) 3 SCC 193. It was observed to be well established that if the owner was aware of the fact that the licence was fake and still permitted the driver to drive the vehicle, then the insurer’s liability would stand absolved. However, the mere fact that the driving licence is fake, per se, would not absolve the liability of the insurer. It was noticed that, in the present case, neither the Tribunal nor the High Court made any attempt to analyse as to whether the appellant was aware of the fake driving licence possessed by the driver. In such circumstances, the Court deemed it appropriate to relegate the parties before the High Court for fresh consideration of the matter only on question of liability of the owner or of the insurer to pay compensation. The appeal was disposed of in the terms above. [Ram Chandra Singh v. Rajaram,2018 SCC OnLine SC 959, dated 14-08-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of B.S. Walia, J. allowed an appeal filed against the order of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT) awarding a compensation of Rs. 50,000 to the respondent even when the offending vehicle involved in the accident was unidentified.

The appeal was preferred by the insurance company- United India Insurance Co. Ltd., who was made liable to pay the above-mentioned amount of compensation to the respondent. The appeal required adjudication upon a single question- whether liability can be imposed under Section 140 of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988, in case the offending vehicle is unidentified? Learned counsel appearing for the appellant submitted that a separate provision, Section 161, existed for the cases where the offending vehicle involved in the accident is unidentified.

In order to settle the issue, the High Court perused both the Sections. The Court observed that Section 140 makes provision for the award of compensation amounting to Rs. 50,000 in cases of death or permanent disability, where the offending vehicle is identified. However, for hit and run cases, where the offending vehicle remains unidentified, Section 161 comes into play. That Section fixes the compensation amount at Rs. 25,000 in case of death and Rs. 12,500 in case of grievous hurt. Holding that there is a clear-cut difference in the provisions applicable to the two situations, the Court answered the question framed hereinabove, in negative. The appeal was accordingly allowed and the order of the MACT was set aside. [United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Kuldip Kaur, 2018 SCC OnLine P&H 843, dated 01-06-2018 ]

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab & Haryana High Court: In its recent order, the Court ruled that the insurance company is bound to pay compensation for the accident caused, even if the same occurred abroad. The Bench of Rajbir Sehrawat, J.  set aside the earlier order of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Kurukshetra which had absolved the insurance company from its liability and had instead ordered the owners of the bus to pay a compensation of Rs 4, 34,500, in a case where the bus in question carrying 54 pilgrims met with an accident in Nepal.

Justice Sehrawat in his judgement stated, “….the insurance policy is attached to the ‘vehicle’ in question and not to geographical expanse of the area of operation of the vehicle in question…”. He further supplemented the same by saying, “…Motor Vehicles Act extends only to ‘whole of India’ as per  Section 1, so it does not cover the area outside India. However, this rational also does not exempt the Insurance Company from liability arising from the usage of the vehicle outside the geographical area of the Union of India. This section also implies that the Act would be applicable to all the citizens and subjects of India qua all the Motor Vehicular aspects in India. It does not exclude the liability of one citizen or entity of India qua the other citizen of India even if the same is incurred outside the geographical area of Union of India…” [Anil Kumar v. Roop Kumar Sharma, FAO No. 152 of 2017, decided on 13.11.2017]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

High Court of Australia: In the instant case, the respondent sustained serious spinal injuries which rendered her paraplegic, when she was thrown from the back seat of a car being driven by the appellant who was drunk at the time of the accident. The issue for determination was whether the respondent was contributorily negligent  for choosing to travel in the car driven by the appellant when she ought to have known that he was intoxicated and, secondly, for failing to engage her seatbelt.

The trial Judge rejected the contention of the respondent that the appellant’s erratic driving had prevented her from fastening her seatbelt and held that failure to wear a seatbelt constitutes contributory negligence under Section 49 of the Civil Liability Act 1936. The Judge further held that the exception in Section 47(2)(b) of the Act applies in the present case as the respondent could not reasonably be expected to have avoided the risk of riding with the appellant in the circumstances. On appeal, a majority of the Full Court of the Supreme Court of South Australia dismissed the appellant’s appeal on the Section 47(2)(b) issue, and allowed the respondent’s cross-appeal on the issue of Section 49 and held that her failure to fasten her seatbelt was a result of her direct and natural response to the appellant’s erratic driving.

The appellant appealed to the High Court on both issues. A bench of French CJ, Kiefel, Bell, Keane And Gordon JJ unanimously dismissed the appeal on the Section 47(2)(b) issue and held that the respondent, who suffered major injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident, was not contributorily negligent under Section 47 of the Civil Liability Act 1936 for travelling in a car driven by an intoxicated driver, as according to the facts of the case, she could not reasonably be expected to have avoided the risk of travelling with the appellant. However, the Court allowed the appeal and affirmed the trial judge’s finding that the appellant’s driving did not prevent the respondent from fastening her seatbelt and accordingly held that the respondent was contributorily negligent under Section 49 of the Act for failing to wear the seatbelt. [Alex Allen v. Danielle Louise Chadwick, decided on 9-12-2015]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The questions that came before the bench of H.L. Dattu, CJ and Arun Mishra, J were whether in the wake of lease agreement entered into by registered owner with Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), the registered owner and insurer along with KSRTC can be fastened with the liability to make payment to the claimants and that whether KSRTC can recover the amount from registered owner and its entitlement to seek indemnification from insurer.

Taking note of the definition of the term ‘owner’ as defined under Section 2(30) of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, the Court said that under the MV Act, the owner means a registered owner and where the agreement on hire-purchase or an agreement of hypothecation has been entered into or lease agreement, the person in possession of the vehicle is treated as an owner. It was held that the KSRTC being in actual control of the vehicle would also be liable to make the compensation, however, it can recover the amount from the registered owner or insurer, as the case may be. Regarding the liability of the insurer, it was held that the insurer cannot escape the liability, when ownership changes due to the hypothecation agreement It was further held that In the case of hire also, it cannot escape the liability, even if the ownership changes. Even though, KSRTC is treated as owner under Section 2(30) of the MV Act, the registered owner continues to remain liable as per terms and conditions of lease agreement lawfully entered into with KSRTC.

The Court, after referring to many decisions of this court, held that registered owner, insurer as well as KSRTC would be liable to make the payment of compensation jointly and severally to the claimants and the KSRTC in terms of the lease agreement entered into with the registered owner would be entitled to recover the amount paid to the claimants from the owner as stipulated in the agreement or from the insurer.[ Managing Director, K.S.R.T.C. v. New India Assurance Co.Ltd.,2015 SCC OnLine SC 1044, decided on 27.10.2015]