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Person accompanied injured to hospital for immediate medical aid, couldn't have Lodged FIR: SC [MVA]

It is quite natural that such a person who had accompanied the injured to the hospital for immediate medical aid, could not have simultaneously gone to the police station to lodge the FIR. The High Court ought not to have drawn any adverse inference against the witness for his failure to report the matter to Police. Further, as the police had themselves reached the hospital upon having received information about the accident, there was perhaps no occasion forAW3 to lodge a report once again to the police at a later stage either. (Para 17)



Anita Sharma & Ors. v. The New India Assurance Co. Ltd. & Anr.

Civil Appeal Nos. 4010-4011 of 2020 [Arising out of Special Leave Petition (C) Nos. 32011-32012 of 2018]

Decided on December 08, 2020.

A division bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Aniruddha Bose decided the present litigation.


Sandeep Sharma died on 10.12.2009 as a result of the injuries suffered in an accident where the car he was travelling in was struck by a truck coming from the opposite direction. Sandeep’s dependents filed a claim petition for Rs 60,94,000 on 26.08.2010 alleging that the accident occurred due to the rash and negligent driving of Sanjeev Kapoor (Respondent No.2) who was the owner-cum-driver of the car in which Sandeep was travelling. Sanjeev, in his written statement, admitted that the deceased had suffered multiple injuries in the accident but he disowned responsibility for the accident by asserting that it was the truck which was coming at a very fast speed and was being driven in a rash and negligent manner.


The insurance company in its separate written statement took the preliminary objection that as per the police investigation and the FIR, the accident was caused by an unknown truck which hit the car and, therefore, the claim petition filed against the owner of the car or its insurer was contrary to law. In its verdict, the Tribunal relied upon the statement of the eyewitness Ritesh Pandey (AW3), according to whom Sanjeev Kapoor was driving the car at a very fast speed when it overtook a vehicle and collided head on against the truck. The Tribunal held the Respondents liable for the accident and partly allowed the Claim Petition with a compensation of Rs. 16,08,000. The insurance company and the appellant filed their respective appeals before the High Court. Through judgment dated 23.07.2018, the High Court set aside the Tribunal’s award and dismissed the Claim petition.


The Court heard the Counsel for parties and crystallized the issues to be determined: The two questions which fall for determination are

1. Whether the accident was caused due to rash and negligent driving of the car driver— Sanjeev Kapoor and

2. Whether Ritesh Pandey (AW3) is a reliable witness or not?


The Court noted that some material facts which have a direct bearing on the fate of this case have escaped the notice of the High Court, mainly that the FIR was not registered by Sanjeev Kapoor as assumed by the High Court. The FIR was lodged on 27.03.2009 and a slightly illegible part thereof indicates that Sanjeev Kapoor and the informant were known to each other. The informant himself had not witnessed the accident and apparently lodged the FIR based on hearsay information.


The Court appreciated Ritesh Pandey (AW3) as a responsible citizen for assisting the deceased and his family and stated that the High Court ought not to have disbelieved his testimony based on a mere conjecture.


It is quite natural that such a person who had accompanied the injured to the hospital for immediate medical aid, could not have simultaneously gone to the police station to lodge the FIR. The High Court ought not to have drawn any adverse inference against the witness for his failure to report the matter to Police. Further, as the police had themselves reached the hospital upon having received information about the accident, there was perhaps no occasion forAW3 to lodge a report once again to the police at a later stage either. (Para 17)


Further, the Court held:

The failure of the respondents to cross examine the solitary eyewitness or confront him with their version, despite adequate opportunity, must lead to an inference of tacit admission on their part. They did not even suggest the witness that he was siding with the claimants. The High Court has failed to appreciate the legal effect of this absence of cross-examination of a crucial witness. (Para 19)


The Court expressed concern over the failure of the High Court to be cognizant of the fact that strict principles of evidence and standards of proof like in a criminal trial are inapplicable in MACT claim cases. In this regard, it stated:

The standard of proof in such like matters is one of preponderance of probabilities, rather than beyond reasonable doubt. One needs to be mindful that the approach and role of Courts while examining evidence in accident claim cases ought not to be to find fault with non-examination of some best eyewitnesses, as may happen in a criminal trial; but, instead should be only to analyze the material placed on record by the parties to ascertain whether the claimant’s version is more likely than not true. (Para 22)


Further, the Court stated:

The observation of the High Court that the author of the FIR (as per its judgment, the owner-cum-driver) had not been examined as a witness, and hence adverse inference ought to be drawn against the appellant-claimants, is wholly misconceived and misdirected. Not only is the owner-cum-driver not the author of the FIR, but instead he is one of the contesting respondents in the Claim Petition who, along with insurance company, is an interested party with a pecuniary stake in the result of the case. If the owner-cum-driver of the car were setting up a defence plea that the accident was a result of not his but the truck driver’s carelessness or rashness, then the onus was on him to step into the witness box and explain as to how the accident had taken place. The fact that Sanjeev Kapoor chose not to depose in support of what he has pleaded in his written statement, further suggests that he was himself at fault. The High Court, therefore, ought not to have shifted the burden of proof. (Para 23)


The Court stated that the FIR is liable to be discarded for more than one reasons and that the belated FIR appears to be an afterthought attempt to absolve Sanjeev Kapoor from his criminal or civil liabilities; contrarily, the Court noted that the statement of AW3 does not suffer from any evil of suspicion and is worthy of reliance.


The Court held:

Adverting to the claimants’ appeal for enhancement of compensation, we are of the view that no effective argument could be raised on their behalf as to how the compensation assessed by the Tribunal was inadequate, except that in view of the authoritative pronouncement of this Court in National Insurance Co Ltd v. Pranay Sethi, the claimants are entitled to an increase of 40% towards annual dependency on account of ‘future prospects’ given the undisputed age of the deceased. Their appeal to that extent deserves to be allowed. (Para 25)


The Court set aside the judgment of the High Court and held that the appellants are entitled to compensation as awarded by the Tribunal, besides 40% addition in the annual income of the deceased towards ‘future prospects’: The Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Sikar (Rajasthan) is directed to recalculate the compensation amount accordingly. The appellants are held entitled to interest @ 8.5%, as per the Tribunal’s award, on the entire amount of compensation. The Tribunal shall recalculate the compensation within one month and the insurance company shall deposit the same within one month thereafter.



Jhanavi M

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