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Oriental Fire and General Insurance Co. Ltd. Vs. Smt. Krishna Devi and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberF.A.F.O. No. 482 of 1975
Judge
Reported in[1983]54CompCas798(All)
ActsMotor Vehicles Act, 1939 - Sections 110A and 110F
AppellantOriental Fire and General Insurance Co. Ltd.
RespondentSmt. Krishna Devi and ors.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Excerpt:
- - the proceedings under the said provisions are like suit for damages in tort. if claimants fail to lead any evidenceregarding rash and negligent driving of the vehicle or if no evidence isproduced by the parties on the question, the claim petition would fail. these principles are well acceptedand it is not necessary to refer to authorities. apart from these two witnesses, as noother witness was produced to prove the manner in which the accidenttook place, the claimants, therefore, failed to discharge the initial burdenwhich lies on them. since the claimants failed to discharge the initial burden of proving the rash and negligent driving of the vehicle, no burden lies on the appellants to prove careful driving of the vehicle......through the bridge he was driving his vehicle at a speed of 10 kms. and he was not negligent or rash in driving. the testimony of the driver is not sufficient to hold that the accident took place on account of the rash and negligent driving of the vehicle. moreover, the driver stated that one way traffic rule was applicable on the jamuna bridge and when he entered the bridge the deceased, manohar lal, in an unauthorised manner made an effort to pass through the bridge from the opposite direction and in that effort he may have hit the railing of the bridge causing injuries to himself. he is an interested person but there is no evidence (sic) record to contradict his testimony. we do not find any material on (sic) to uphold the findings of the court below that the claimants had.....
Judgment:

K.N. Singh, J.

1. This appeal is directed against the order of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Agra, dated August 12, 1975, awarding a sum of Rs. 27,000 as compensation to be paid by the appellant insurance company and M/s. New Verma Transport Co., the owner of the vehicle.

2. On May 23, 1969, at about 4.30 p.m. the deceased, Manohar Lal, was coming on cycle from Etmandaula side to Balanganj and, while he was, passing the old Jamuna Bridge at Agra, the truck No. UFA 8526 owned by M/s. New Verma Transport Co; dashed against Sri Manohar Lal as a result of which he died in the hospital at about 8 p.m. the same day. The Vehile was insured with the Oriental Fire & General Insurance Co., appellant No. 1. Smt. Krishna Devi, widow of the deceased, Manohar Lal, and three minor sons of the deceased filed a claim petition under Section 110A of the M.V. Act, 1939, claiming a sum of Rs. 40,000 as compensation from the insurance company and the owner of the vehicle for the loss of the life of Manohar Lal. The owner of the vehicle did not file any written statement. The insurance, company filed written statement asserting that the deceased himself was responsible for the accident and the owner and the insurer were not liable to pay any compensation. The Claims Tribunal by its order dated May 12, 1975, held that the driver of the vehicle was guilty of rash and negligent driving as a result of which the accident took place resulting in the death of Manohar Lal and, as such, the owner and the insurer both were liable to pay compensation to the claimants. The Tribunal further determined a sum of Rs. 27,000 as compensation payable to the claimants. Aggrieved, the insurer and the owner of the vehicle have preferred this appeal.

3. Learned counsellor the appellants urged that the claimants did not produce any evidence before the Tribunal in support of their case that the driver of the vehicle in question was rash and negligent as a result of which the accident took place. On the other hand, the facts as established on record, show that the deceased himself was responsible for the accident as he violated one way traffic rule on the bridge and further he received injuries as he collided against the railing of the bridge. No injuries were caused to him by the vehicle and, as such, the claimants are not entitled to any compensation. We find considerable force in the contention.

4. Sections 110A to 110F provide a summary procedure for relief to those who are affected by rash and negligent driving of vehicles on the public roads. The provisions of the Act contemplate payment of compensation and damages to the claimants. The proceedings under the said provisions are like suit for damages in tort. Since proceedings in a suit are generally long drawn and full of technicalities, the Legislature has provided for summary procedure under Sections 110A to 110F of the M.V. Act making it easier to a claimant to claim compensation for the injuries received by him in person or property or in case the accident results in death, the dependants or legal representatives of the deceased in proceedings before the Tribunal constituted under the Act. Though the proceedings are summary in nature, yet the principles Which regulate theaward of damages in action for tort govern the proceedings. In a casewhere damages are claimed for the death of the deceased the claimantsmust prove that the accident occurred on account of rash and negligentdriving of the vehicle. This is the basic principle which governs the proceedings before the Tribunal. If claimants fail to lead any evidenceregarding rash and negligent driving of the vehicle or if no evidence isproduced by the parties on the question, the claim petition would fail.The initial burden lies on the claimants to prove the fact that the vehiclewas being driven in a rash and negligent manner resulting in the accident. In the absence of any such evidence the owner of the vehicle wouldnot be liable to pay compensation. These principles are well acceptedand it is not necessary to refer to authorities.

5. In the instant case, the claimants produced only two witnesses insupport of their case. PW-1--Krishna Devi, widow of the deceased-appeared in the witness box; she supported the claim petition especiallywith regard to the income of the deceased. She stated that she was notpresent on the spot at the time of the accident. Naturally, she could notbe a witness to say anything about the rash and negligent driving of thevehicle. Babu Lal--PW-2--was produced on behalf of the claimants toprove the salary of the deceased. He was also not present on the spotand, as such, his testimony does not contain anything about the mannerin which the accident took place. Apart from these two witnesses, as noother witness was produced to prove the manner in which the accidenttook place, the claimants, therefore, failed to discharge the initial burdenwhich lies on them.

6. As against this, the appellants produced Narain Das, driver of the vehicle. In his testimony he denied that any accident took place ; instead, he stated that when he had passed Jamuna Bridge to the other side, his vehicle was stopped by the constable and he was told that an accident had taken place with his truck. The witnesses denied that any accident had taken place with his truck. He further stated that while passing through the bridge he was driving his vehicle at a speed of 10 kms. and he was not negligent or rash in driving. The testimony of the driver is not sufficient to hold that the accident took place on account of the rash and negligent driving of the vehicle. Moreover, the driver stated that one way traffic rule was applicable on the Jamuna Bridge and when he entered the bridge the deceased, Manohar Lal, in an unauthorised manner made an effort to pass through the bridge from the opposite direction and in that effort he may have hit the railing of the bridge causing injuries to himself. He is an interested person but there is no evidence (SIC) record to contradict his testimony. We do not find any material on (SIC) to uphold the findings of the court below that the claimants had discharged their initial burden in proving that the vehicle was driven in rash and negligent manner resulting in the death of Manohar Lal. In the absence of such findings the claim petition was liable to be dismissed. The Tribunal, in our opinion, committed an error in awarding compensation to the claimants.

7. It appears that the Tribunal was influenced by the fact that there was no denial of the accident in the written statement filed on behalf of the insurance company. No doubt, there was no specific denial relating to the accident but in para. 26 of the written statement filed on behalf of the insurance company, it was specifically stated that the deceased himself-was responsible for the accident. In view of this plea it was not open to the Tribunal to place the burden on the appellants for proving the fact that the driver of the vehicle was not guilty of rash and negligent driving. Since the claimants failed to discharge the initial burden of proving the rash and negligent driving of the vehicle, no burden lies on the appellants to prove careful driving of the vehicle. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur would also not apply as material facts for applying those principles were also not proved. The Tribunal, in our opinion, committed a serious error in placing the burden of proof on the appellants.

8. In the result, we allow the appeal, set aside the order of the IInd Additional District Judge dated August 12, 1975, and dismiss the claim petition. There will be no order as to costs.


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