Mere ‘Smell Of Alcohol’ From Injured Does Not Invalidate His Claim In Motor Accident: Karnataka High Court

The Karnataka High Court has passed a judgment on 28th February, 2023 that even if a person was intoxicated or smelling with alcohol, the same cannot be an excuse for the driver of a bus for causing the road traffic accident.This was in the case of Murugan T And P. Jayagovinda Bhat v. ANR (Miscellaneous First Appeal No. 554 Of 2020) and this is presided over by a single bench of Justice Dr H B Prabhakara Sastry.


The present appellant was the claimant before the I Additional District Judge and Motor Accident Claims Tribunal whose claim petition under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 for compensation from the respondents herein came to be dismissed as devoid of merit by the Tribunal vide its impugned judgment. The claimant,when he was standing on the side of the road near Kankanady Bus Stand at Mangaluru, the driver of a Bus bearing registration driving the said Bus in high speed and in a rash and negligent manner, took the Bus in such a way so that its back wheel ran over the left foot of the claimant, inflicting grievous injures upon him. Stating that at the time of accident, he was working as a Coolie and earning a sum of `10,000/- per month and was aged 45 years, however, due to the accident, he has lost his future income and also incurred huge medical expenses, the claimant has claimed a sum of `3,00,000/- as compensation from the respondents No.1 and 2, holding them as liable to pay him the compensation in their capacity as the owner and insurer of the alleged offending Bus, respectively. After hearing both side, the Tribunal vide its impugned judgment answered issue No.1 in the negative and issue Nos.2 and 3 as ‘does not survive for consideration’ and proceeded to dismiss the claim petition filed by the claimant.

Learned counsel for the respondent No.2, contended that, when the Tribunal has observed that the claimant was intoxicated with alcohol, it has rightly held that there is no negligence on the part of the driver of the Bus. The learned counsel for the appellant (claimant) in his argument submitted that, mere smelling of alcohol cannot be a ground to hold that the accident in question has taken place solely due to the negligence of the claimant himself. The Tribunal assumed itself that mere mentioning of the ‘smell of alcohol’ as the conclusive proof of the claimant/patient consuming alcohol at the time of the alleged road traffic accident.


It added “It is such care and caution that is expected of a driver of any Motor vehicle.Therefore, no exception can be given that the driver cannot be held as negligent when the back wheel of a heavy passenger vehicle is said to have passed on the leg of a pedestrian.”

It was also opined that “A standing person was taken to be seen by the driver who was driving a passenger Bus in the premises of a Bus Stand, as such, he should have been more vigilant and cautious in driving the said Bus. Therefore, the reasoning given by the Tribunal that there was negligence on the part of the driver of the alleged offending Bus is not acceptable.”

The bench said “This fact also was not taken into consideration by the Tribunal. As such, the road traffic accident, as alleged in the claim petition by the claimant, is not only proved but also proved that the said road traffic accident has occurred solely due to the rash and negligent driving by the driver.” Following which it remanded the matter back to the tribunal for considering the issue regarding whether the petitioner is entitled for compensation or not.


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