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Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Gauhati High Court quashes order directing railways to pay compensation for deaths of people while crossing unmanned level crossings, alleges negligence of driver

By Vaseline May30,2024

The Gauhati High Court on Tuesday set aside the verdict of a Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, which directed NF Railways to pay compensation of Rs. 4 Lakhs to the representatives of a deceased person who died in an accident in which his vehicle was hit by a train while trying to cross an unmanned railway crossing, on the grounds that the accident occurred due to the negligence of the driver who committed the said train operated vehicle and therefore NF Railways is not liable to pay any compensation to the plaintiff.

The single judge bench of Justice Parthivjyoti Saikia noticed:

“Section 161 of the Railways Act 1989 requires the drivers of any vehicle crossing an unmanned level crossing to stop and observe whether a train is approaching before crossing the level crossing. The driver Lok Bahadur Chetri has stated in his evidence that he did not stop his vehicle before crossing the level crossing.”

Facts

On November 13, 2009, at about 6.18 pm, the deceased was sitting in the driver’s cabin of the TATA Magic ACE Pick Up vehicle. The driver and the handyman were also present in the cabin along with the deceased. When the vehicle tried to cross an unmanned railway crossing near Laipuli, a train coming from Lidu towards Dibrugarh hit the above-mentioned vehicle. The deceased sustained serious injuries and succumbed to his injuries.

Therefore, the deceased’s wife, his two children and his parents filed a claim petition before the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Tinsukia (Tribunal), seeking compensation.

The following issues were before the Tribunal:

  1. Whether the deceased died on November 13, 2009 due to rash and negligent driving of TATA Magic ACE Pick Up vehicle?
  2. Are the plaintiffs entitled to any damages? If so, to what extent and from whom?
  3. Was the accident the result of negligence on the part of NF Railways?

After perusal of the materials on record, the vide judgment and order of the Tribunal dated 19 July 2013 directed the National Insurance Company Limited to pay compensation of Rs. 4,03,550/- to the plaintiff along with interest rate of 6 percent per annum.

The Tribunal further directed the Divisional Railway Manager, Tinsukia, to pay a sum of Rs. 4,03,550/- to the plaintiff along with interest rate of 6 percent per annum.

The Union of India and Divisional Railway Manager, Tinsukia preferred the present appeal under Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act challenging the said judgment and order of the Tribunal.

The counsel for the railways submitted that if any person driving or guiding a vehicle is negligent while crossing an unmanned level crossing under section 161 of the Railways Act, 1989, he will be punished with imprisonment which may extend to one year.

It was further submitted that the driver of the said vehicle never stopped or never wanted to stop the vehicle near the level crossing to observe if there was an approaching train in sight and therefore it is the fault of the driver due to which the accident occurred.

The court noted that the driver of the said vehicle has stated in his evidence that before crossing the railway crossing, he had not stopped the vehicle but had looked towards Dibrugarh and his handyman had looked towards Lidu.

“When they found no train on the track, they continued towards the level crossing. The driver further stated in his evidence that an army truck had crossed the unmanned railway crossing just in front of him and that he simply followed that truck. Immediately, a train from the direction of Lidu hit his vehicle. The driver stated in his statement that he never heard the sound of an approaching train, nor did he hear the train’s whistle.the Court noted.

The Court noted that it is difficult to believe that the driver did not hear the sound of a huge incoming train.

The court ruled that the driver had breached the statutory provision laid down in section 161 of the Railways Act 1989.

“It has been proven that the accident took place due to the negligence of Lok Bahadur Chetri, who was driving the vehicle bearing registration number AS-23-AC-0846. In that case, the appellant NF Railways does not owe any compensation to the claimant,said the Court.

The Court thus allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned judgment and order of the Tribunal directing the appellant NF Railways to pay compensation of Rs. 4,03,550/- to the plaintiff(s) along with interest rate of 6 percent per annum.

Visa: 2024 LiveLaw (Gau) 32

Case title: Union of India & Anr. v. Rekha Bharali & 4 Ors.

Case number: MACApp./349/2013

Click here to read/download the order

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