Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: S. Kumar, J. dismissed the appeal filed by the insurance company on the grounds that the parties were liable severally as well as jointly. Although the company had the right to recover such compensation paid from the other party involved in the accident for which insurance was being claimed.

A miscellaneous appeal was filed under Section 173 of Motor Vehicle Act by the appellant against the Judgment and Award passed by the 1st Additional District Judge-cum-Motor Accident Claim Tribunal, Saran at Chapra in Claim Case No. 22 of 2002, by which the learned Claims Tribunal directed the appellant to pay a sum of Rs 3,50,000 to the claimant with interest @ 6 % per annum from the date of claim case till its realization.

The claimant was the husband of one Parwati Devi who died in a motor accident while travelling on a Commander Jeep which collided with another Commander Jeep on 19-09-2001 at about 10:00 PM The deceased was seriously injured and while she was being taken to hospital she succumbed to the injuries. An FIR was instituted under Sections 279, 338 and 304-A of the Penal Code against the drivers of both the vehicles and after investigation the police found the case to be true against drivers of both vehicles.

The appellant had appeared and had filed their written statement in which they denied the claim of claimants. The tribunal, after having examined the material brought on as evidence, held that the deceased died due to rash and negligent driving by the drivers of both vehicles and there was composite negligence on part of both the drivers. The Tribunal had further held that it was a case of composite negligence and the claimant was entitled to claim the compensation amount from either the owner or the insurer of the vehicle and had directed the appellant who was the insurer, to pay compensation.

High Court did not find any error or infirmity in the order passed by the tribunal and as such present appeal was dismissed as a liability to pay the compensation was joint and as well as several. However, since there was a specific finding of the tribunal that there was composite negligence on part of drivers of both the vehicles as such the appellant was entitled to recover 50% of the compensation amount paid to the claimant from the owner /insurer of the other offending vehicle.

In view of the above noted facts, the instant appeal was dismissed with the directions that the insurance company had to pay the balance claim amount with interest @ 6% from the date of presentation of claim till its realization within one month from the receipt of a copy of order passed by the court with a right of recovery of 50% of the compensation amount so paid from the owner /insurer of the other offending vehicle.[New India Assurance Co. Ltd v. Kanchan Bhagat, Miscellaneous Appeal No. 137 of 2009, decided on 02-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: Sandeep Mehta, J. dismissed an appeal from the Insurance company seeking exoneration of a lower court order.

In the present case, two appeals arose challenging the lower court judgment-cum-award. The parties have challenged the amount awarded by the trial court, primarily disputing over the salary amount earned by the deceased driver. Due to contradictions in the statements of the claimants, the insurance company and the employer of the deceased, the trial court had considered the income being Rs 2000 per month and accordingly had calculated the compensation amount under Section 163A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. The claimants being one of the appellants filed for enhancement of the compensation amount awarded and the Insurance Company, being the other appellants was seeking exoneration of the award.

The counsel representing the insurance company, D.K. Gaur, claimed exoneration on two grounds, that the deceased driver was not having a valid driving license to drive a light motor vehicle and he was driving in a rash and negligent manner.

The Court upon perusal of facts, circumstances, and records dismissed the appeal of the claimants stating the award passed by the trial court is not on the lower end and is absolutely justified. The Court also dismissed the contentions of the insurance company stating that the controversy relating to the deceased not having the valid license was decided as no longer res Integra by Mukund Dewangan v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. (2017) 14 SCC 663 and stated that in United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Sunil Kumar, (2014) 1 SCC 680, it was decided that regarding negligence of the owner it is “to be decided by the structured formula and the adjudication thereunder is required to be made without requirement of any proof of negligence of the driver/owner of the vehicle involved in the accident”. Thus, the Court decided both the appeals are to be dismissed and the award passed by the trial court was justified.[Maniram v. Jenudeen, 2019 SCC OnLine Raj 2809, decided on 09-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Mukta Gupta, J. dismissed a criminal leave petition filed against the judgment of the Magistrate whereby the respondents were acquitted of offences punishable under Sections 279 and 338 IPC along with Sections 146 and 196 of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

According to the prosecution, on the day of the incident, the respondents were driving a bike without an insurance policy on a public way in a rash and negligent manner. They hit the complainant who fell down and sustained injuries. Case of the prosecution rested upon the testimony of the complainant who stated that he was crossing the road on a green signal and on reaching the middle of the road he was hit by the respondents’ bike.

The High Court noted that the complainant did not depose as to which of the respondents was driving the bike in a rash and negligent manner. Thus, he failed to identify the accused who committed the offence. Furthermore, the prosecution failed to clarify whether the green signal was for pedestrians or vehicles. In such view of the matter, the Court was of the view that judgment of the Magistrate did not require interference. The petition was dismissed. [State v. Mohd. Furqan,2018 SCC OnLine Del 12913, dated 20-09-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In pursuance of the order dated 26.08.2016 on the issue relating to inadequate punishment under Section 304-A IPC, Mukul Rohatgi, the Attorney General submitted that Section 304-A covers all kinds of deaths by negligence and, therefore, mere providing of higher punishment may not sub-serve the cause of justice. Elaborating further, he said that when a broken wall falls and someone gets injured or a person dies, Section 304-A is also attracted.

The Attorney General also submitted that some people drive while putting their mobile phones in the ears as a consequence of which disastrous consequences take place and the effect is the person gets into misery or he causes miseries to others. It was further mentioned that sometimes, people who drive while using mobile phone are booked under Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 which provides for imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to Rs. 1000 in case of commission of offence for the first time. He submitted that the said provision is not sufficient for adequate handelling of the situation in praesenti and asked the Court to list the matter on 06.12.2016.

Showing grave concern over the vehicular accidents that extinguish the life-spark of many because of the whim and fancy, adventurism of the men at the wheel and harbouring of the notion that they are “larger than life”, the Court said that it is a matter of common knowledge that the drivers drive because of their profession but there are individuals who drive the vehicle because of their uncontrolled propensity for adventure. They really do not care for the lives of others. It can be stated with certitude that the number of vehicles in the country has increased in geometrical manner and the people are in a competition to pick up the speed.

The Bench of Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan, JJ had asked the Attorney general to assist the Court and had said that Section 304-A IPC requires to have a re-look because the punishment provided therein is absolutely inadequate in the context of the modern day. [Abdul Sharif v. State of Haryana, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 865, decided on 21.09.2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court:  Dismissing the criminal miscellaneous case where the petitioner having been  charged under Sections 304-A, 279 and 338 of the Penal Code, 1860 for causing death due to rash and negligent driving, sought quashing of the proceedings on the basis of a compromise entered into by the parties, the Court observed that such offences cannot be treated as a private dispute between the parties, so as to persuade the Court to accept a compromise and quash the proceedings.

The petitioner contended that a compromise had been entered into at the instance of mediators and the respondents had no objection to the proceedings being quashed. The Public Prosecutor however opposed the same, submitting that the Court was kept in the dark as to the terms of the settlement and the actual legal heirs of the deceased. Hence, if the offence under Section 304-A is quashed on the basis of a purported settlement with one of the legal heirs of the victim,  it would send a wrong signal.

The Bench of Raja Vijayraghavan, J. observed that an offence under Section 304-A IPC has the potentiality of making victims in many a layer thus creating a concavity in the social fabric. The impact on the society is felt all the more when accidents take place due to rash driving by drunken, negligent or adventurous drivers with no concern for others. The Court in exercise of powers under Section 482 CrPC cannot send a signal to the wrongdoer that payment of money can be a substitute for the crime committed against the society. The Court held that taking a lenient view of such an offence under Section 304-A will leave a wrong impression about the criminal justice system, encouraging further criminal acts, thus endangering the peaceful co-existence and welfare of the society at large. [Mohammed Ashraf v. State of Kerala, 2016 SCC OnLine Ker 4258, order dated May 18, 2016]