T.N.R. Tirumalpad, J.C.
1. This is an application by the State to enhance the sentence of fine of Rs. 5/- passed by the First Class Magistrate, I.W. and B. against the respondent Laisram Ibobl Singh for his conviction under Section 304A, I.P.C.
2. The case against the respondent Ibobi Singh was that on 4-3-1960 at about 12-00 noon when the deceased Amuthoi Kabui along with P.W. 6 Ngairalungba Kabui were going on cycles along the left side of the Indo-Burmah Road towards south and had reached near Naorem Leikai, the respondent came in the opposite direction driving the Bus MNS 2364 at a high speed and knocked down Amuthol Kabui and caused injuries on him which resulted in his death.
The respondent's defence was that P.W. 6 and the deceased were driving on cycles in parallel fashion along the road and were engaged in conversation, Amuthoi Kabui being on the western side, that the respondent was driving the Bus at a moderate speed and sounded his horn on nearing the cycles, but the cyclists paid no heed to him. Still, he swerved as far as practicable towards the western side of the road, but Amuthoi Kabui dashed against the Bus not in the front, but in the side and met with the accident which resulted in his death.
3. The Magistrate did not accept the prosecution case that the respondent was driving the Bus at a high speed. But he was of opinion that there was carelessness and negligence on the part of the respondent in driving the Bus and that as spoken to by the 3 eye-witnesses, namely, P.Ws. 4, 5 and 6, he drove the Bus along the wrong side of the road. Hence, he convicted the respondent under Section 304A, I.P.C. but sentenced him only to a fine of Rs. 5/- 'in view of the meagreness of the evidence'.
The learned Government Advocate argued that if the case was proved against the respondent, a fine of Rs. 5/-was a ridiculous sentence for having caused the death of Amuthol Kabui by driving the Bus in a negligent manner and that the learned Magistrate was wrong in awarding such a light punishment by saying that the evidence was meagre. The learned Government Advocate printed out that if the evidence was meagre in the opinion of the Magistrate, he should have acquitted the accused, but if he found the case proved, then it was his duty to have given a more severe punishment.
4. I have perused the evidence in the case and I find that the main evidence was that of the 3 cyclists P.Ws. 4, 5 and 6 who were eye-witnesses. (His Lordship considered their evidence and proceeded:)
5. The question then arises how the accident took place. Was the learned Magistrate right in coming to the conclusion that there was carelessness and negligence on the part of the respondent and that the accident was caused by such negligent act. I. am afraid that the evidence of P.Ws. 4, 5 and 6 is not conclusive on this point.
It turned out from the evidence of P.Ws. 4 and 5 that they were cycling abreast along the road talking to each other and that the bus had to swerve to the eastern side of the road to avoid them. If therefore P.W. 6 and Amuthoi Kabui were also going abreast talking to each other without caring for the sounding of the horn by the bus and the accident happened, the respondent cannot be held guilty of causing the accident by his negligence alone. The fact that P.W. 6 admitted that he was talking with Amuthoi Kabui, while they were cycling shows that they must have been driving their cycles in parallel and not one following the other, as P.W. 6 would have it.
It is a very common feature in Manipur that when more cyclists than one go along the road, they always drive their cycles in parallel fashion, abreast of each other and that in spite of the sounding of the horn by Motor vehicles they refuse to give side and expect the motor vehicles to avoid the cycles by swerving the Vehicles towards the right. Thus, in this case the respondent had to swerve towards the right in order to avoid P.Ws. 4 and 5 who were driving their cycles in parallel fashion along the roadi and if at that time P.W. 6 and Amuthoi Kabui were coming in the opposite direction also in parallel fashion conversing with one another and the bus was not able to avoid one of them even though it was not coming at a high speed and it sounded its horn, it cannot be positively stated that the respondent was negligent in driving the bus. It is better that the cyclists understand that driving abreast along the road on cycles is agains the rules. If the accident happened when the cyclist was driving along the road against the rules, the driver of the motor vehicle cannot be found fault with. P.Ws. 4, 5 and 6, all being cyclists were evidently trying to suppress the fact that P.W. 6 and Amuthoi Kabui were driving their cycles abreast. We also find from the evidence of the I.O. that the blood stains as a result of the accident were right in the centre of the road and this also does not show that the bus had swerved towards the eastern side of the road. Nor was there any scratch mark in the front side of the bus. If the bus had hit Amuthoi Kabui and his cycle in its front side, then scratch marks must have been visible. The scratch marks were on the side of the bus, as spoken to by P.W. 7 indicating thereby that Amuthoi Kabui must have hit the bus on the side, which would absolve the respondent from blame.
I cannot therefore agree with the Magistrate that the respondent was negligent. It is more than possible that Amuthoi Kabui was also negligent and contributed to the accident. The Magistrate himself felt that the evidence was meagre. He should not have therefore convicted the respondent, Though, this is an application for enhancement of sentence and the respondent has not filed any revision against his conviction, this is a case where I should interfere With his conviction. The Government Advocate also stated that if the evidence was not sufficient, the respondent was entitled to an acquittal and that if the evidence was considered sufficient, the punishment awarded to him was extremely insufficient. I find that there was not enough evidence to convict the respondent. Hence, it is not possible to enhance the sentence, but on the other hand, this is a case where after perusing the entire evidence, I find that I should set aside the conviction of the respondent and acquit him. The respondent is accordingly acquitted and the fine realised from him is ordered to be returned to him.