Big-vehicle drivers are not always responsible for Motor Accidents: Madras High Court

Fixing the driver of the big vehicle as a tortfeasor is imprecise. It must not be assumed that always the big-vehicle drivers are responsible for the road accidents and thus be held liable for the same. Madurai bench of Madras High Court gave the judgment in the case of The Branch Manager of Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation vs. Marimuthu & others [C.M.A(MD)No.358 of 2016 and C.M.P.(MD)No.5106 of 2016] by stating the above reasons; presided over by the bench of Hon’ble Justice K.Murali Shankar.

In the present case, an appeal has been made by the appellant u/s 173 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 challenging the order of the trial court. In the instant case, claimants (Family of the deceased) had filed a case against the appellant for a road accident in which the deceased with his other three friends were returning from their school but in the midway, the bus bearing Registration No.TN 55 0520, which came in the opposite direction in a rash and negligent manner, dashed against the two-wheeler, and as a result of which, all the four persons were thrown out and sustained serious injuries. Despite the treatment, Govindaraju (son of the claimants) died and therefore it was contended that the accident occurred due to rash and negligent driving of the bus driver.

On the contrary, Bus driver and the appellants argued that the motorcycle drivers were responsible for the accident because they were unable to control their vehicle and that’s why bumped into the bus. In the trial court, considering the evidence and testimony of the witnesses, the appellant was held for the offence and therefore directed to pay Rs 662000/- with the interest of 7.5% per annum to the claimants as compensation.  In the High Court of Madras, the appellants made an appeal to challenge the order of the trial court. The trial court had relied on the judgments of 2011 (1) TN MAC 136 (DB), United India Insurance Company Limited, Karaikudi vs. Uma & others, and Mohammed Siddique and another Vs. National Insurance Company Limited & others [2020(1) TN MAC 161 (SC)].

In the High Court, arguments were raised by both the parties. High Court contended that a two-wheeler popularly called a Motorbike or motorcycle is designed and is meant for traveling of two persons. If anyone takes more than 2 persons and violates the two only rules, then he will be committing an offence and is punishable under Section 128 of the Motor Vehicles Act. Considering the technical and the other aspects, the court held that the rider and all the pillion riders were guilty of negligent riding/traveling.

Considering all the facts and evidence, the court held that both the parties were equally liable for the accident and were also liable for contributory negligence, and therefore, the degree of contributory negligence was fixed at 50% on the part of the deceased.

Hence court stated that “Civil Miscellaneous Appeal is partly allowed, directing the claimants to bear 50% of the amount awarded by the tribunal for contributory negligence.” And added that “It is high time for all stakeholders to review our mind-set that in cases of road accidents involving big and small vehicles, fixing the driver of the big vehicle as tort-feasor, as in the majority of cases FIRs came to be registered against the driver of the big vehicle and investigations are being carried out in such a way to make that driver is responsible for the accident.”

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