Biker not at fault as parking lights of vehicle he rammed were off, says HC, trebles damages to Rs 39 lakh

The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court recently held that a motorcycle rider cannot be held even partially responsible of “contributory negligence” for ramming into a stationary vehicle under the Motor Vehicle’s Act, in case the offending vehicle’s parking lights were off.

The court enhanced the Rs 13,91-lakh compensation awarded by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal (MACT) by another Rs 25.59 lakh and held that the biker’s kin were entitled to Rs 39.51 lakh compensation, along with 6 per cent interest, from the date of filing of claim petition till its realisation.

The HC was hearing an appeal filed by the kin of deceased biker Mohanrao Narharrao Salunkhe — who was 46 years old at the time of the incident — seeking that the compensation awarded by Latur MACT be enhanced.

On October 9, 2009, around 10 pm, Salunkhe was proceeding on his motorcycle towards his village in Ambejogai taluka. When he reached near Kaushik Dhaba on Latur-Ambejogai road near Renapur, he dashed into a stationary motor tempo parked on the road. He suffered injuries and died during treatment. Following this, an offence was registered against the tempo driver.

“It has come on record that no such parking lights were put on the offending tempo, so liability of contributory accident cannot be fastened on the deceased by holding that, he should have seen the stationed tempo under the headlight of the motorcycle. When there is specific rule in respect of taking precautions by stationary vehicle, if such precautions are not taken by the driver/owner of stationary vehicle then liability cannot be shifted on motorcycle rider,” Justice S G Dige said.

“I am setting aside the observations of the tribunal that there was 50 per cent contributory negligence of the deceased in the said accident and I am holding that, driver of the offending tempo is solely responsible for the accident,” the judge held.

Advocate R B Deshpande for the appellants submitted that the Tribunal has wrongly considered 50 percent contributory negligence of the deceased and same was ‘improper’.

Deshpande said that the offending tempo was stationed in the middle of the road and no tail lamp and indicators of the same were put on, therefore there was darkness on the road.

“No proper precaution was taken by the driver of the offending tempo, for indication to the other vehicles and due to darkness deceased could not see offending tempo and dashed against it, but this fact is not considered by the Tribunal,” he argued.

Deshpande further said, the MACT did not consider compensation for future prospects and the award amount required to be enhanced.

However, advocate H A Patankar for respondent insurer National Insurance Company Ltd submitted that the deceased was driving the motorcycle in high and excessive speed and he could have seen the stationed offending tempo with the headlight on his motorcycle. The lawyer for respondents including the driver, said the tempo driver had taken proper precaution and the tempo was on the left side of the road and the Tribunal had rightly considered contributory negligence of the deceased, therefore appeal be dismissed.

Justice Dige referred to the Rule 109 of the Central Motor Vehicles rules, 1989 which stipulated proper precautions and said that the front and rear parking lights shall remain lit when the vehicle is kept stationary on the road in the night. .

The HC observed that it was “unable to understand” MACT’s findings of contributory negligence, as records indicated that no tail lamp or indicator of the tempo were on and no proper precaution was taken by the driver to give signal to other vehicles.

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