The Hon’ble Supreme Court vide order dated 08.12.2020 held that the strict principles of evidence and standard of proof applicable to criminal trials are inapplicable in Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT) claim cases. The standard of proof in such like matters is one of preponderance of probabilities, rather than beyond reasonable doubt.
The said judgement was pronounced by the Single Bench comprising of Justice Surya Kant, in an appeal directed against judgment dated 23.07.2018 passed by the High Court of Rajasthan.
The case relates to an accident, which results into the death of a 34-year-old man named Sandeep Sharma who was survived by his wife, two minor children and mother; all of who were dependent upon him. The appellant/ claimant claimed Rs. 60,94,000 compensation, alleging, inter alia, that Sandeep died as a result of the injuries suffered in the abovementioned accident, which occurred due to rash and negligent driving of the respondent/ driver-cum-owner of the car, Sanjeev Kapoor.
Sanjeev on the other hand asserted that it was the truck, which was driven negligently. However, according to the eyewitness, it was the respondent who was speeding and collided with the oncoming truck. The eyewitness further informed that he took the injured to the hospital. Motor Accident Claim Tribunal awarded Rs. 16,08,000 to the appellant/ claimant.
However, the High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan set aside the same for reasons that the witness had failed to report the accident to jurisdictional police and doubted his credibility for having a nexus with the other party. It also pointed out the sincerity of the respondent for filing an F.I.R. It inferred that the eyewitness did not take the deceased to the hospital, as his name did not appear on the hospital records. Aggrieved by the same; the Petitioner filed a special Leave Petition in Supreme Court.
The Apex court, after analyzing the facts of the case and the High Court Judgment, concluded that the high court erred in recognizing the tacit admission of the respondent during the proceeding and the legal effect of absence of cross-examination of a crucial witness. It emphasized on the importance of the cross-examination with Parmeshwari v. Amir Chand (2011) 11 SC 635 and like judgments.
The top court further held that the High Court of Rajasthan was extremely insensitive about the turn of events and appellant/claimant’s hardship in tracing the witnesses and collecting evidence.
Coming to the reliability of the eyewitness, the Apex Court considered the eyewitness as a good Samaritan and a responsible citizen, who took the injured persons to the hospital and volunteered to become a witness as opposed to most of the people being hesitant about their involvement in the legal proceedings and it is understandable as to why his name isn’t there on any medical/ police record.
The Single Bench Judge observed that it is obvious with the circumstances that it was the private people (not the police) who took the injured to the hospital. The court pointed out that there is nothing to record that can prove that police reached the site and carried the injured and held the witness reliable.
Therefore, the said judgement under appeal was set aside granting compensation to the Appellant as awarded by the Tribunal, besides 40% addition in the annual income of the deceased towards prospects.
Order: Motor Vehicle Judgment