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The proceedings before a Claims Tribunal are in the nature of an enquiry and the standard of proof is of a lesser degree than in proceedings of civil nature: High Court of J&K and Ladakh

Merely because the Claims Tribunal while deciding the claim petition has come to the conclusion that there has been a lack of care on the part of the petitioner does not lead to a conclusion that the petitioner was solely responsible for the accident. A fact in a proceeding before the Claims Tribunal has to be proved on the basis of fair evidence, not even on the basis of preponderance of probabilities as held by the Hon’ble High Court of J&K and Ladakh through the learned bench of Justice Sanjay Dhar In the case of Ali Mohammad Mir Vs State Of J&K & Ors. [OWP No.1232/2017]

The facts emerging from the pleadings are that the petitioner, who is employed as a driver in J&K Police, was driving a police bus. On reaching near Kathi Darwaza, Srinagar, a mine blast took place due to which petitioner lost control over the vehicle and a pedestrian was run over by the vehicle resulting in her death on spot. A claim petition was filed before Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Srinagar, seeking compensation on account of the death of the deceased.

The Tribunal after the trial of the case came to the conclusion that the petitioner was driving the offending bus in a rash and negligent manner without any police escort. Accordingly, the Tribunal, finding the respondents in the claim petition vicariously liable for the acts of the petitioner, awarded a sum of Rs.6,45,928/ along with interest @6% per annum in favor of the claimants and against the respondents therein. It is this part of the order and the communication issued consequent to the aforesaid order that was under challenge before this High Court in this writ petition.

It has been contended by the petitioner that the impugned order has been passed without observing the principles of natural justice, inasmuch as the petitioner has not been afforded an opportunity of being heard. It is further contended that the impugned order has been passed without taking note of the fact that the accident was caused not because of the negligence of the petitioner but because of the mine blast and that there was no material on record to even remotely suggest that the petitioner was responsible for the accident.

After hearing the learned counsels, the Hon’ble High Court opined that it cannot even remotely be suggested that the petitioner was responsible for the accident or that he was negligent to such a degree as would amount to any dereliction of duty on his part. In conclusion, the court stated that “Merely because the Claims Tribunal has awarded compensation against the respondents herein does not lead to a conclusion that the petitioner has been negligent to an extent that he has to be held responsible for payment of compensation to the claimants. Victims of a motor accident and their dependents are entitled to compensation even in a case where they have suffered injuries/death on account of use of a motor vehicle. The element of negligence is not necessarily to be proved for entitling a claimant to compensation. Thus, merely because the Tribunal has awarded compensation in favour of the claimants does not mean that driver of the offending vehicle has to reimburse the same to his owner, particularly when no such direction has been passed by the Tribunal against the petitioner.”

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Judgment Reviewed by – Aryan Bajaj

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