MUNICIPAL CORPORATION AHMEDABAD Vs. GANDHI SHANTILAL GIRDHARLAL
HIGH COURT OF GUJARAT
MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF AHMEDABAD
GANDHI SHANTILAL GIRDHARLAL
Referred Judgements :-
GOPAL DAS V. SRI THAKURJI
CORAL INDIRA GONSLAVES V. JOSEPH PRABHAKAR
EMPEROR V. AHILYA MANJI
AKBAR V. JAVA BENGAL LINE
PARWAT VEDU PATIL VS. SUKDEV SHIVRAM PATIL
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(1.)Amongst the several issues raised by the learned trial Judge were issues Nos. 1 and 2 viz. whether the plaintiff proved that the accident was the direct result of rashness or negligence on the part of the defendants drivers and whether the defendant-corporation proved that there was contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiffs. In para 9 of his judgment in suit No. 175/1953 the learned trial Judge held that the defendant corporation failed to adduce any evidence to establish contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiffs and found against the defendant on that issue. As regards the question whether the accident took place in consequence of rash or negligent driving on the part of the drivers the learned Judge observed that in cases of this type it would be enough if the plaintiffs were to establish the accident; that it was not necessary for such a plaintiff to lead positive evidence to prove negligence on the part of the defendants servants as from the mere fact of an accident the law would assume that the burden of proving negligence has been discharged by the plaintiff and the defendant would then have to meet a prima facie case established by the plaintiff. He further observed that a public carrier of passengers owed duty to the passengers to take every precaution for their safety and if a passenger were injured as a result of collision or accident it would be the duty of the carrier to prove that he took every possible precaution to ensure the safety of the passengers.
(2.)The principles on which such suits are decided are well known. The general rule that it is for the plaintiff to prove negligence and not for the defendant to disprove it would in some cases cause considerable hardship to the plaintiff as the true cause of the accident might be solely within the knowledge of the defendant. The plaintiff may be able to prove the accident but it might well be that he cannot prove how it happened 80 as to show its origin in the negligence of the defendant. This hardship is avoided to a considerable extent by the rule Res lpsa loquitur. There are cases in which the accident speaks for itself so that it is sufficient for the plaintiff in such cases to prove the accident and no more. It would be then for the defendant to show that the accident arose through no negligence of his. The maxim Res ipsa loquitur applies whenever it is so improbable that such an accident could have happened without the negligence of the defendant that a reasonable jury could find without further evidence that it was so caused. It is true that there must be reasonable evidence of negligence but where the thing is shown to be under the management of the defendant or his servants and the accident is such as in ordinary course of things does not happen if those who have the management use proper care it affords reasonable evidence in the absence of an explanation by the defendant that the accident arose from want of care. On the other hand if the defendant produces a reasonable explanation equally consistent with negligence and no negligence the burden of proving the affirmative that the defendant was negligent and that his negligence caused the accident would still remain with the plaintiff.
(3.)Mr. Thakore for the defendant-corporation however argued that except for the bare word of the plaintiffs that the buses were being driven rashly or negligently by the drivers there was no positive evidence that a particular driver in whose vehicle the plaintiff was travelling was either rash or negligent while driving his vehicle. He contended that unless it was established by the plaintiffs that the driver of the vehicle in which he was sitting drove the vehicle either rashly or negligently it would not be possible to attribute the collision either to his rashness or negligence. He argued that it might be that it was the other driver who was responsible for the collision and not the driver of the vehicle in which the particular plaintiff was travelling. Such a question no doubt would arise in a case where the two vehicles concerned in the collision were to be owned by different proprietors and are plied by the servants of such different proprietors. But where the drivers of both the vehicles concerned in the collision are servants of the same master that question would hardly arise. For even if one of the drivers is not proved to have driven his vehicle either rashly or negligently collision of two vehicles not being an ordinary event must be attributed to the rashness or negligence of one of the two drivers. Even if therefore it were found that it was the other driver who was responsible for rash or negligent driving which was the cause of the accident in question both the drivers being servants of the same master; the master would be liable for damages on the principle of vicarious liability. In Skinner. v. London Brighton & South Coast Railway Co. (1850) G Exch. 787 as reported in the Empire Digest Vol. VIII the plaintiff alleged that while he was a passenger in one of the defendants trains the train in which he was travelling ran against another train on the line whereby he was injured. The accident was caused by the train running in the direction against another train which was standing still at an intermediate station on the line. Both the trains were run and plied by the defendants and were being driven by their servants. It was held that the mere fact of the accident having occurred was prima facie evidence of the negligence on the part of the defendants. Although the driver of the defendants train which had halted at the intermediate station could not be attributed with any negligence or rashness there was negligence or rashness on the part of the other train which could be said to be the cause of the accident. The fact that the driver of the train which had halted was not negligent could not be relied upon as one relieving the defendants from their liability. Both the trains being owned by the defendants and being driven by their servants it would not matter whether one or the other driver was negligent and/or rash. The fact that both of them were the servants of the defendants coupled with the fact that the negligence on the part of one of them was responsible for the accident causing injury to the plaintiff was sufficient to hold the defendants liable for damages.
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