[Case Brief] Anil & Others v/s New India Assurance Co Ltd & Others, 2018

Anil & Others v/s New India Assurance Company Limited & Others is a judgment decided by a three-judge bench of Honourable Supreme Court of India consisting of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Dr DY Chandrachud (Author of the judgment) and Justice AM Khanwilkar. This judgment was delivered on January 19, 2018. The relevant act/sections discussed in the judgment are as follows:

(1) Indian Penal Code, 1860- Section 279 r/w section 304A

Brief Facts and Procedural History:

Ram Kanwar was the deceased person while Satbir Singh was the owner of the tractor. On 12th January 1955, Bhawani Shankar along with Rohtas and Ghanshyam were proceeding in a tractor driven by Dharampal from Sehjahpur to village Jat Behrod. Ram Kanwar signaled for the tractor to stop, but however, since it was driven in a rash and negligent manner, it ran over Ram Kanwar. Accordingly, the Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal, Rewari, held Dharampal to be liable and awarded compensation of Rs 21, 38, 000/- together with interest at the rate of 9 percent per annum to the appellants. When an appeal was preferred in the High Court, the Punjab and Haryana High Court observed that there is significant number of “disturbing facts” which have emerged in the present case and thus the High Court reversed the order of the Tribunal.

It is pertinent to note that the deceased after the incident was taken to the hospital at Kotputli where he was found bleeding excessively. The doctor there has said to have referred the deceased for further treatment at the GH at Gurgaon. It is not known whether the deceased died at the hospital at Gurgaon or he had died at GH, Kotoputli itself. Admittedly, no post-mortem was also conducted in this case. The incident though took place on 12 January 1995, a complaint was lodged only on 15 February 1995.

Issues raised before the Court of Law:

1) Whether the death of the deceased was caused as a result of the accident caused by the tractor?

2) Whether the High Court was correct in reversing the order passed by the Accidents Claims Tribunal?

Ratio Given and the Decision Held: 

It was observed that if there were three passengers in the tractor, all of whom had known that driver Dharampal had by his negligent act run over Ram Kanwar, the most natural conduct would have been to lodge a complaint. The person who died was the brother of the owner of the tractor. Hence, the fact that a complaint was not lodged for nearly one month is a significant omission in the case. There was also no record to show that the death was caused due to an accident of nature alleged. Besides, the assessment of compensation by the Tribunal is perverse. Thus it is true that a false case was set up to support a claim for compensation.  The appeal is accordingly dismissed.

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