Friday, 20 November 2020

Kar HC | Strict rules of evidence are not required to be followed in matters relating to MV Act, 1988

Under the Motor Vehicles Act in the claim petition before the Claims Tribunal the standard of proof is much below than what is required in a criminal case as well as in the civil case. No doubt, before the Tribunal, there must be some material on the basis of which the Tribunal can arrive or decide things necessary to decide for awarding compensation, but the Tribunal is not expected to take or to adopt a nicety of a civil or criminal case. After all it is a summary enquiry and it is the legislation for the welfare of the Society. The proceedings under the Motor Vehicles Act are not akin to the proceedings under civil rules. Hence, strict rules of evidence are not required to be followed in this regard. In the case of MANGLA RAM -v- ORIENTAL INSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED (2018) 5 SCC 656, the Hon'ble Apex Court has held as hereinbelow:

"25. In Dulcina Fernandes, 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 standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt could not have been applied."

 Karnataka High Court

Smt. Rukmini vs N.C. Chandru on 2 November, 2020
Author: Alok Aradhe Prasad
Coram:MR.JUSTICE ALOK ARADHE and
 MR.JUSTICE H.T.NARENDRA PRASAD   This appeal under Section 173(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act', for short) has been filed by the claimants being aggrieved by the judgment dated 23.06.2016 passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal.

2. Facts giving rise to the filing of the appeal briefly stated are that on 25.11.2009 at 9.15 a.m., the deceased K.G.Mahalingegowda was proceeding on his motorcycle bearing registration No.KA-11/U-6453 to K.R.Pet from Srirangapattana, on Bengaluru - Mysuru road and when he reached Nimishamba petrol bunk, Hero Honda motorcycle bearing registration No. KA- 09/EB-327 which was being driven in a rash and negligent manner, dashed against the motorcycle of the deceased. As a result of the aforesaid accident, the deceased sustained grievous injuries and immediately shifted to Government Hospital, Srirangapatttana and after first aid, he was shifted to Vikram Hospital, Mysuru wherein he has taken treatment as inpatient. On 17.07.2010 at 2.45 a.m. he died in the Vikram Hospital.

3. The claimants filed a petition under Section 166 of the Act on the ground that the deceased was aged about 55 years at the time of accident and was working as Village Accountant at Ballenahally circle and was earning Rs.13,136/- per month, he was also earning Rs.2,000/- per month from milk vending business and Rs.50,000/- from agriculture. The claimants claimed compensation to the tune of Rs.16,91,823/- along with interest at 18% p.a.

4. On service of summons, the respondent Nos.1 and 2 appeared through counsel and the respondent No.2 filed written statement in which the averments made in the petition were denied. It was pleaded that the accident took place due to the rash and negligent riding of the deceased himself, who was driving the vehicle without traffic knowledge and without driving licence. It was further pleaded that the complaint is lodged with a delay and the delay is not explained. It was further pleaded that after filing the complaint the investigation was conducted by the police and 'B' report was filed stating that a false complaint is filed. It was further pleaded that the claimants have played fraud and misrepresented the facts. Hence, he sought for dismissal of the petition.

5. On the basis of the pleadings of the parties, the Claims Tribunal framed the issues and thereafter recorded the evidence. The claimants, in order to prove their case, examined claimant No.1 - wife of the deceased as PW-1, an eyewitness as PW-2 and the complainant as PW-3 and got exhibited 109 documents namely Ex.P1 to Ex.P109. On behalf of respondents, an officer of the insurance company was examined as RW-1 and no documents were produced. The Claims Tribunal, by the impugned judgment, inter alia, held that the claimants have failed to prove that the accident in question is caused by the rider of the offending vehicle and hence dismissed the petition. Being aggrieved, this appeal has been filed.

6. The learned counsel for the claimants has raised the following contentions:

Firstly, the accident has occurred due to the rash and negligent riding of the Hero Honda motorcycle, the rider of the Hero Honda motorcycle was riding the motorcycle in a rash and negligent manner and dashed to the motorcycle of the deceased. But the Tribunal has erred in giving a finding that the claimants have failed to prove that the Hero Honda motorcycle was involved in the accident.

Secondly, claimants have examined PW-2 and PW-3 who were the eyewitnesses to the accident. They have categorically stated that the accident has occurred due to the rash and negligent riding of the Hero Honda motorcycle by its rider.

Thirdly, in Ex.P105 - history of the patient in the hospital records, it is shown as Road Traffic Accident, but the Tribunal has failed to consider the same.

Fourthly, the Tribunal only on the basis of 'B' report has dismissed the claim petition. Hence, he sought for allowing the appeal.

7. On the other hand, the learned counsel for the Insurance Company has submitted that the Tribunal, after considering the evidence of the parties and the materials available on record has rightly held that Mahalingegowda died due to self fall and the offending vehicle is not involved in the accident. Even after thorough investigation police have filed 'B' report. Therefore, the Tribunal is justified in dismissing the claim petition. Hence, he sought for dismissal of the appeal.

8. We have considered the submissions made by the learned counsel for the parties and have perused the records.

9. The specific case of the claimants is that on 25.11.2009 at 9.15 a.m., the deceased was proceeding on his motorcycle to K.R.Pet from Srirangapattana on Bengaluru - Mysuru road. When he reached near Nimishamba Petrol bunk, the Hero Honda motorcycle which was ridden by its rider in a rash and negligent manner dashed against the motorcycle of the deceased, due to the impact, he fell down and sustained head injury. Immediately he was shifted to the Government Hospital at Srirangapattana and for further treatment he was shifted to Vikram Hospital, Mysuru where he has been treated as inpatient and he succumbed to the injuries on 17.07.2010 at 2.45 a.m. To prove their case claimant No.1 examined herself as PW-1 and also examined two eyewitnesses as PW-2 and PW-3. The eyewitnesses have categorically stated that the accident has occurred due to the negligence of the rider of the Hero Honda motorcycle. The police also registered FIR against the rider of the Hero Honda motorcycle and only after investigation police have filed 'B' report.

10. Under the Motor Vehicles Act in the claim petition before the Claims Tribunal the standard of proof is much below than what is required in a criminal case as well as in the civil case. No doubt, before the Tribunal, there must be some material on the basis of which the Tribunal can arrive or decide things necessary to decide for awarding compensation, but the Tribunal is not expected to take or to adopt a nicety of a civil or criminal case. After all it is a summary enquiry and it is the legislation for the welfare of the Society. The proceedings under the Motor Vehicles Act are not akin to the proceedings under civil rules. Hence, strict rules of evidence are not required to be followed in this regard. In the case of MANGLA RAM -v- ORIENTAL INSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED (2018) 5 SCC 656, the Hon'ble Apex Court has held as hereinbelow:

"25. In Dulcina Fernandes, 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 standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt could not have been applied."

11. The Tribunal only on the basis that the police have filed 'B' report has come to the conclusion that the deceased died due to self accident. The Tribunal has failed to consider the evidence of the eyewitnesses. The claimants have not examined the doctor and the investigating officer. Under these circumstances, in the interest of justice, the matter requires to be remanded for reconsideration.

12. Accordingly, the appeal is allowed. The judgment and award passed by the Tribunal is set aside. The matter is remanded back to the Tribunal for reconsideration. Liberty is reserved to the claimants to examine any other witnesses, including the doctor who has treated the deceased and the investigating officer to prove their case, in accordance with law. The Tribunal is directed to give an opportunity to the respondents to cross-examine the additional witnesses to be examined by the claimants. The Tribunal is directed to dispose of the appeal within six months from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.

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