The petitioners filed a petition praying for a direction to compensate them. The petitioners seek compensation towards refund of medical expenses, loss of income, loss of prospects, etc. In this case, Justice Navin Chawla decided the matter.
Facts of the Case
Petitioner No.1, aged about 21 years, is pursuing his studies in B.Sc. Hons. (Electrical Engg.) from Delhi University. On 05.12.2015, he was attending a marriage function in the vicinity. At around 1.30 A.M. on 06.12.2015, he made a call to his father to inform that he was about to leave for home. He said that he would reach home by 2.30 A.M. or 3.00 A.M. A Police Constable informed Petitioner No.2 around 5.00 A.M., that his son, petitioner No.1, had been in a road accident. Petitioner No.1 got admitted to the Safdarjung Hospital.
He had suffered enormous injuries on his body and head. On 14.01.2016, the hospital discharged petitioner no.1. When released, he was in a state of unconsciousness. The Discharge Record stated that Petitioner No.1 was in a state of ‘altered sensorium, eye-opening to pain, not opening to commands.’ Petitioner No.1 continues to remain in the same state. Respondent No.2 (Delhi Police) registered an FIR against Petitioner No.1. The registered FIR is under Sections 279 and 337, IPC for rash and negligent driving.
Arguments of the Parties
Respondent No. 2 argued the following points:
a) Respondents had placed barricades in a well-illuminated area and were visible from a considerable distance.
b) Petitioner No.1 was speeding and was unable to brake in time to avoid colliding with the barricades.
c) The petitioner no.1 seemed to have tried to slip through the gap between the barriers. Owing to the speed at which the vehicle was traveling, he was unable to spot the chain linking the barricades.
d) No helmet or any protective gear of any sort was found at the site of the accident. Hence, Petitioner No. 1 was in violation of the provisions of Section 129 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
e) The accident occurred due to contributory negligence of the Petitioner No.1.
f) A writ petition under Article 226 would not be a proper remedy for the petitioners as they are disputed facts. They are placing reliance on Chairman, Grid Corporation of Orissa Ltd. (GRIDCO) & Ors. vs. Sukamani Das (Smt) & Anr. (1999) 7 SCC 298 and SDO, Grid Corporation of Orissa Ltd. & Ors. vs. Timudu Oram (2005) 6 SCC 156.
In contrast, the petitioners dispute the above assertions:
a) Photographs of the site show that the barricades are present at a spot which is not well illuminated and not be visible from far.
b) Petitioner No.1 was wearing a helmet/headgear at the time of the accident.
Observation of the Court
The Court observed that Respondent No.2 had barricades in place for safety. Hence, the presence of barricades cast a duty to take precautions and maintain them. Also, respondent no.2 has to make sure that there are no accidents due to non-maintenance. The Court perused a standing order issued by the Respondent No.2. Additionally, the standing order was for the “Procurement, Maintenance, Repairs and Operational Usage of Delhi Police Mobile Barricades”. A few relevant points for the standing order include:
- Clause 6 of the Standing Order mandates that all barricades must have necessary fluorescent paint. Barricades have to have blinkers as well so that they are visible from a long distance. Further, photographs filed by the petitioners further show that the area where the barricades were, was not suitably illuminated. Also, the same did not have proper blinkers or other warning signs for the motorcyclists.
- Clause 9 further states that barricades are to be properly aligned to ensure safe navigation and traffic halts. Also, chains tying these barricades together could under no circumstances be visible to a motorist from far. Hence, the chaining of such barricades was not permissible under the Standing Order.
- Also, Clause 10 mandates that the barricades, under no circumstances should be left unmanned. Further, respondent no. 2 admitted that nobody had manned the barricades in question.
- Finally, for the contention that the writ under article 226 is not a proper remedy, the Court relied on Darshan & Ors. vs. Union of India & Ors. MANU/DE/0103/1999. It held that the negligence of the State and dereliction of duty leads to deprivation of life or limb of a person.
Hence, this attracts Article 21 of the Constitution. Therefore, the petitioners can invoke Article 226 of the Constitution to claim monetary compensation. The Court also noted that the authorities did not recover a helmet from the site. However, this can not lead to the conclusion that the petitioner No.1 was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident or was driving his motorcycle at a high speed or rashly.
The petitioners have claimed an amount of Rs.18 lacs as compensation for the medical expenses incurred by the petitioner No.1. The petitioner No.1 has suffered an injury and is in a vegetative state requiring constant care and treatment. Further, at the time of the accident, the Petitioner No. 1 was 21 years old and was pursuing his studies in B.Sc. (Hons.) in Delhi University. The Court keeping in view all the facts and circumstances of the case and the law relating to the award of compensation ordered a total compensation of Rs.75 lacs. Further, the Court held the compensation awarded is just. Additionally, Respondent no.2 has to pay compensation within a period of four weeks. Finally, If Respondent no. 2 fails, they shall pay interest of 9% per annum for the period of delay.
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