Bimla Devi & Ors.
Vs. Himachal Road Transport Corpn. & Ors.  INSC 740 (15 April 2009)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2538 OF 2009 (Arising
out of SLP (C) No.280 of 2006) Bimla Devi & Ors. ... Appellant Versus
Himachal Road Transport Corpn. & Ors. ...
S.B. Sinha, J.
appeal is directed against a judgment and order dated 22.8.2005 passed by the
High Court of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla in FAO No.127 of 1999 whereby and
whereunder an appeal preferred against a judgment and award dated 28.10.1998
passed by the Motor Accident
[MACT (I), Nahan] in MAC Petition No.21-NL/2 of
1997, was set aside.
Jawala Ram, husband of the first appellant herein, was a Police Constable. He
was posted at Police Station Dharampur. On 11.2.1997 at about 7 or 8 am, he was
standing near the shop of one Chand Kishore. A bus bearing registration
No.HP-14-3596 owned by the first respondent was parked there. The second
respondent Vijay Kumar was the driver and the third respondent Om Dutt was the
conductor of the aforementioned bus. Allegedly, the driver of the bus, Vijay
Kumar, reversed the bus without blowing any horn as a result whereof Jawala Ram
died on the spot. Allegedly, conductor also did not bother to check whether any
person was standing behind the bus.
however, denied and disputed occurrence of the said accident. According to
them, the deceased died the previous evening and finding the dead body of a
person wrapped in a blanket lying at some distance from the bus; they informed
the police personnel, whereafter the driver was falsely implicated.
factum of accident, thus, being denied and disputed; one of the issues framed
by learned Tribunal on the claim application filed by the appellants herein for
grant of compensation in terms of Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988
Jawala Ram died on 11.2.1997 near Dharampur, due to rash and negligent of Bus
No.HP-14-3596 by respondent No.2 and 3 negligent conduct of respondent No.3 as
learned Tribunal upon consideration of the evidence adduced on behalf of the
appellant and the first respondent, opined:
(1) Death of Jawala
Ram on 11.2.1997 at Dharampur was not disputed.
(2) First Information
Report was registered at Police Station, Dharampur on the said date also stands
(3) Even if the
allegations made in the First Information Report are not taken into
consideration, the death of Jawala Ram in an accident stood proved by the post
mortem examination report (Exhibit-PY) in terms whereof he had died due to
(4) Death of Jawala
Ram in an accident has also been proved by Shri Dharam Pal (PW3) who was an
eye-witness to the occurrence.
driver and conductor of the bus admitted their presence at the scene of
occurrence. Vijay Kumar (RW1) alleged that he had seen the dead body wrapped in
a blanket behind the bus when he was still to start the bus. The Tribunal did
not find his statement to be reliable. Bhawani Dutt (RW2) did not support the
version of the respondent as he stated that the driver and conductor of the bus
had gone to the police station and the people gathered there stated that
someone had been lying dead. He according to the Tribunal, also could not deny
positively that the accident had not taken place because of the use of the bus
It is difficult to
believe that the Police Officers would fabricate a case against the
respondents. The learned Tribunal opined:
keeping in view the statement of PW, Dharam Pal, the death of Jawala Ram
because of injuries, the presence of the Bus of the respondents and place and
time of the occurrence and the other circumstances of the case, I am convinced
that the death of Jawala Ram took place after being hit by the Bus when it was
being reversed in backward directions.
Once, it is so held,
the respondents, driver and conductor shall have to be held negligent in
reversing the bus in backward directions without blowing horn or whistle or
giving indication to the persons standing there. Had the driver and conductor
of the bus taken care to blow horn or to forewarn the persons standing there
before reversing the bus, Jawala Ram, who was stated to be standing behind the
bus would not have been crushed. Consequently, it is held that Jawala Ram had
died because of the injuries sustained by him in the course of Bus accident
because of rashness and negligence of the respondents, driver and conductor of
said issue, on the basis of the aforementioned findings, was decided in favour
of the appellant.
5 On an appeal
preferred therefrom by the respondents before the High Court, however, the said
finding of fact was reversed by it, inter alia, opining:
"In the post
mortem report there is no details of any such crush injuries of tyre marks in
fact the thorax and abdomen region have been found by and large normal. Even to
the muscle bones and joints there are no serious injuries. The main injury is to
the head only. It is not the case of the claimants that only the head of the
deceased was crushed under the tyres. Therefore, the version of the claimants
is difficult to believe."
The High Court
furthermore held that the deceased might have died in some accident and the
Police officials wrongly lodged the first information report against the driver
of the bus.
Appellant is, thus,
Dinesh Verma, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant, would
submit that having regard to the reasons assigned by the learned Tribunal, the
High Court must be held to have committed serious error in passing the impugned
Maheshwari, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondents, however,
supported the judgment of the High Court.
post mortem report clearly stated of a head injury.
dealing with a claim petition in terms of Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles
Act, 1988, a Tribunal stricto sensu is not bound by the pleadings of the
parties; its function being to determine the amount of fair compensation in the
event an accident has taken place by reason of negligence of that driver of a
motor vehicle. It is true that occurrence of an accident having regard to the
provisions contained in Section 166 of the Act is a sine qua non for
entertaining a claim petition but that would not mean that despite evidence to
the effect that death of the claimant's predecessor had taken place by reason
of an accident caused by a motor vehicle, the same would be ignored only on the
basis of a post mortem report vis-`-vis the averments made in a claim petition.
deceased was a Constable. Death took place near a police station. The post
mortem report clearly suggests that the deceased died of a brain injury. The
place of accident is not far from the police station. It is, therefore,
difficult to believe the story of the driver of the bus that he slept in the
bus and in the morning found a dead body wrapped in a blanket. If the death of
a constable has taken place earlier, it is wholly unlikely that his dead body
in a small town like Dharampur would remain undetected throughout the night
particularly when it was lying at a bus stand and near a police station. In
such an event, the court can presume that the police officers themselves should
have taken possession of the dead body.
learned Tribunal, in our opinion, has rightly proceeded on the basis that
apparently there was absolutely no reason to falsely implicate the respondent
Nos.2 and 3. Claimant was not at the place of occurrence.
She, therefore, might
not be aware of the details as to how the accident took place but the fact that
the First Information Report had been lodged in relation to an accident could
not have been ignored. Some discrepancies in the evidences of the claimant's
witnesses might have occurred but the core question before the Tribunal and
consequently before the High Court was as to whether the bus in question was
involved in the accident or not. For the purpose of determining the said issue,
the Court was required to apply the principle underlying burden of proof in
terms of the provisions of Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act as to whether
a dead body wrapped in a blanket had been found at the spot at such an early
hour, which was required to be proved by the respondent Nos.2 and 3.
a situation of this nature, the Tribunal has rightly taken a holistic view of
the matter. It was necessary to be borne in mind that strict proof of an
accident caused by a particular bus in a particular manner may not be possible
to be done by the claimants. The claimants were merely to establish their case
on the touchstone of preponderance of probability.
The standard of proof
beyond reasonable doubt could not have been applied. For the said purpose, the
High Court should have taken into consideration the respective stories set
forth by both the parties.
judgment of the High Court to a great extent is based on conjectures and
surmises. While holding that the police might have implicated the respondents,
no reason has been assigned in support thereof. No material brought on record
has been referred to for the said purpose.
the reasons aforementioned, the impugned judgment cannot be sustained. It is
set aside accordingly. The appeal is allowed. However, in the facts and
circumstances of the case, there shall be no order as to costs.