Kumar Rana Vs. Surinder Singh & Ors  INSC 823 (6 May 2008)
S.B. Sinha & Lokeshwar Singh Panta
REPORTABLE CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3321 OF 2008 [Arising out of SLP (Civil) No.
8262 of 2007] S.B. SINHA, J :
1. Leave granted.
2. Appellant was driving a two-wheeler bearing registration No. DL-45 AQ
0731 on 30.10.2003. He was aged about 17 = years. He met with an accident, as
allegedly respondent No.1 was driving a mini-truck rashly and negligently. He
suffered the following injuries in the said accident:
"1. Crush injury over right root.
2. Fracture fifth M.T. bone and joint.
3. Fracture P.P. little toe. (Total 3 fractures)
4. Abrasions over left side trunk, right-foot, right-leg, right-hand and
left-knee 5. Profusely Bleeding.
6. Abrasions and blunt injuries all over body."
3. Appellant filed a claim petition under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles
Act, 1988 (for short "the Act"). The Tribunal opined that as the
appellant did not possess a driving licence, he must be held to have
contributed to the accident. Although a sum of Rs. 30,000/- was awarded by way
of compensation, in view of the finding that he was guilty of contributory
negligence on his part, found to be entitled to a sum of Rs.
12,000/- only. The High Court by reason of the impugned judgment has
dismissed the appeal preferred by him under Section 173 of the Act.
4. The question which arises for consideration is as to whether the
appellant can be said to have guilty of contributory negligence.
Ordinarily, the doctrine of contributory negligence is not applicable in
case of children with the same force as in the case of adults.
5. We do not intend to lay down a law that a child can never be guilty of
contributory negligence but ordinarily the same is a question of fact. [See
Muthuswamy and another v. S.A.R. Annamalai and others [1990 ACJ 974]
6. A contributory negligence may be defined as negligence in not avoiding
the consequences arising from the negligence of some other person, when means
and opportunity are afforded to do so. The question of contributory negligence
would arise only when both parties are found to be negligent.
7. The question is, negligence for what? If the complainant must be guilty
of an act or omission which materially contributed to the accident and resulted
in injury and damage, the concept of contributory negligence would apply. [See
New India Assurance Company Ltd. v. Avinash 1988 ACJ 322 (Raj.)] In T.O.
Anthony v. Kavarnan & Ors. [(2008) 3 SCC 748, it was held "6.
'Composite negligence' refers to the negligence on the part of two or more
persons. Where a person is injured as a result of negligence on the part of two
or more wrong doers, it is said that the person was injured on account of the
composite negligence of those wrong-doers. In such a case, each wrong doer, is
jointly and severally liable to the injured for payment of the entire damages
and the injured person has the choice of proceeding against all or any of them.
In such a case, the injured need not establish the extent of responsibility of
each wrong-doer separately, nor is it necessary for the court to determine the
extent of liability of each wrong-doer separately. On the other hand where a
person suffers injury, partly due to the negligence on the part of another
person or persons, and partly as a result of his own negligence, then the
negligence of the part of the injured which contributed to the accident is
referred to as his contributory negligence. Where the injured is guilty of some
negligence, his claim for damages is not defeated merely by reason of the
negligence on his part but the damages recoverable by him in respect of the
injuries stands reduced in proportion to his contributory negligence.
7. Therefore, when two vehicles are involved in an accident, and one of the
drivers claims compensation from the other driver alleging negligence, and the
other driver denies negligence or claims that the injured claimant himself was
negligent, then it becomes necessary to consider whether the injured claimant
was negligent and if so, whether he was solely or partly responsible for the
accident and the extent of his responsibility, that is his contributory
negligence. Therefore where the injured is himself partly liable, the principle
of 'composite negligence' will not apply nor can there be an automatic
inference that the negligence was 50:50 as has been assumed in this case. The
Tribunal ought to have examined the extent of contributory negligence of the
appellant and thereby avoided confusion between composite negligence and
contributory negligence. The High Court has failed to correct the said
8. If a person drives a vehicle without a licence, he commits an offence.
The same, by itself, in our opinion, may not lead to a finding of negligence
as regards the accident. It has been held by the courts below that it was the
driver of the mini-truck which was being driven rashly and negligently. It is
one thing to say that the appellant was not possessing any licence but no
finding of fact has been arrived at that he was driving the two-wheeler rashly
and negligently. If he was not driving rashly and negligently which contributed
to the accident, we fail to see as to how, only because he was not having a
licence, he would be held to be guilty of contributory negligence.
9. The matter might have been different if by reason of his rash and
negligent driving, the accident had taken place.
10. We, therefore, are of the opinion that the impugned judgment cannot be
sustained which is set aside accordingly. Appellant is entitled to the said sum
of Rs. 30,000/- by way of compensation with interest at the rate of 7=% per
annum from the date of the award till making of the payment. Even otherwise
there is no reason as to why in view of the nature of the injuries he has
suffered, he should be deprived of even the petty sum of Rs.30,000/- by way of
compensation. The appeal is allowed with the aforementioned direction. No