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If the totality of the circumstances convince the Tribunal that there has been negligence, the Tribunal will certainly be justified in passing an award under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act :Tripura High Court

The Tripura High Court in the case of The General Manager vs Smt. Sabirani Debbarma (MAC App. No.23 of 2022) upheld that if the totality of the circumstances convince the Tribunal that there has been negligence, the Tribunal will certainly be justified in passing an award under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act.

Facts of the case: The appeal pertains to the claim petition preferred on account of the death of Sukumar Debbarma who died in a road traffic accident. The appellant insurance company had challenged the award passed by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal.

On 03.03.2018 Sukumar Debbarma [deceased] was going to bazaar from his home along the Assam Agartala road. He was at that time walking along his left side of the road. All of a sudden, the speeding vehicle b hit him from his back as a result of which he was thrown off the road and he sustained fatal injuries. He was immediately taken to hospital by the local people where he succumbed to his injuries that night. 

The claimants instituted a claim petition before the MACT under Section 166 of the MV Act 1988 for grant of compensation for the death of said Sukumar Debbarma. The claimants impleaded Sri Rifruchai Mog, owner of the offending vehicle and the SBI General Insurance Company Ltd, the insurer of the offending vehicle. In his written statement, the owner of the offending vehicle admitted the accident

It was, however, pleaded by the insurance company that liability of the insurer to pay compensation would arise only if the owner of the offending vehicle succeeds in proving that the insurance policy was in force on the date of the accident and there was no breach of the terms of the insurance policy. The Tribunal had taken up issues and held that the accident occurred due to rash and negligent driving of the offending vehicle in which Sukumar Debbarma lost his life. It was therefore held that the claimants being his wife, mother and daughters were entitled to compensation.

Judgment: The court held that even though negligence is the foundation of liability under Section 166 MV Act, the satisfaction of the court about the existence of negligence is enough in a motor accident claim case. Counsel had stated that the witness categorically deposed before the trial court that the accident occurred as a result of rash and negligent driving of the vehicle and at the time of the accident Sukumar Debbarma was walking along the road.

The court was of the view that the quality of evidence to prove negligence and existence of negligence in a motor accident claim case is different from culpable negligence punishable under the criminal law. If the totality of the circumstances convince the Tribunal that there has been negligence, the Tribunal will certainly be justified in passing an award under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act.

The appellant could not bring forth any ground to disbelieve the case of the claimants. By producing evidence, claimants seemed to have proved negligence in driving the offending vehicle. The FIR had revealed that two lives were lost in the devastating accident and a good number of persons including the passengers of the offending vehicle and pedestrians received serious injuries from the said accident.Hence, appeal was dismissed.

JUDGMENT REVIEWED BY : SHUBHANGI CHAUDHARY

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